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Retail and restaurant owners face unique challenges in site selection and development, and one crucial component of that is environmental due diligence.  If your job title includes the terms “Real Estate Coordinator”, “Construction Supervisor” or “Director of Development” it is likely that part or all of the responsibility for completing environmental due diligence activities falls on your desk.  Your role may be administrative in procuring a qualified Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) consultant or perhaps technical as the reviewer of completed reports.   The quality of the report can often be indicative of the experience of both the Environmental Professional (EP) and the consulting firm.  Identifying and utilizing a third-party provider who understands the risk management process for retail clients is critical.

Common Environmental Concerns  

Perhaps more so than any other type of property, retail and restaurant properties seem to come in a variety of “flavors” and “packages”.  They range from small, in-line tenant spaces to single-tenant out lots to mega-malls and large box properties. Each of these types of retail property includes a distinct level of risk with respect to environmental issues.  Some environmental concerns that are common to retail areas include:

Drycleaners – Is there a cleaners in the shopping center currently? Was there previously? Drycleaners frequently use solvents and other potentially hazardous chemicals that can contaminate the soil, groundwater or indoor air through malfunctioning equipment, spills or even intentional dumping. Often the timeframe in which the drycleaners existed will give clues as to what types of cleaning chemicals were used.  Sometimes the same cleaners might move tenant spaces within one shopping center, so you may need to be doubly diligent in whether these areas have been contaminated (perhaps with Phase 2 Subsurface Testing).

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