Master planned developments may be managed by a developer or by a consortium including government officials, community representatives, and tenant organizations. In either scenario, its success depends on the approval and support of community stakeholders such as community members and the review board, which can make or break entitlements. Understanding the values of the community stakeholders makes it possible to craft a master plan that delivers on the developer’s business goals while also meeting the expectations of the impacted constituents.

Creating a high-quality master plan that is back-checked by third-party certification is a powerful way to set project aspirations and give the development a chance for long-term success. The master planning process can establish the vision for the project, and help the whole community perform better than it would if decisions were made on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Master planners have the advantage of a long-term time scale, and the opportunity to consider factors like environmental performance, community involvement, and social engagement before running up against budget, schedule, and purchasing decisions.

The biggest challenge faced by master planning teams is that the approval process focuses on smaller tactical issues too early. Because stakeholder approval is paramount, teams fixate on issues like sewers and traffic constraints before the best vision for the development has been established. And once the focus has shifted to tactical issues, it’s tough to pull it back to the goals and values that drove the project’s inception.


Once the connection between tactics and values is lost, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

There are often concurrent versions of a master plan, and for good reason

Pre-lease package:

This document is shared with potential tenants/occupants early in the process, and it’s used to socialize the features and commitments that most strongly resonate with them. The pre-lease package emphasizes differentiators, wow factor, and innovation.

Approval package:

This document is shared with the government committees, city representatives, approvers, and boards. The approval package is less detailed and establishes the minimum standards that will be targeted for the development. It addresses local stakeholder wants and needs and includes a risk assessment/gap analysis that targets the minimum achievable goal. The approval package is authentic while giving the developer maximum flexibility for execution in the future.

Working package:

The working package is a living document that addresses budgeting, planning, design, and a range of aspirations. The working package includes a range of possibilities and requirements, so the project team can evaluate all options in an appropriate context. The working package is not for public consumption because it contains options rather than commitments.

While the packages have different information and are designed to meet the needs of different stakeholder groups, they should exist in harmony with one another.

The Approval package will be reviewed during entitlements. The minimum targets can be established in the Approval package while still telling the story of the abundant and enduring vision for the master plan development. Establishing the vision, linked to values, along with the minimum achievable goals, the review board and stakeholders in the approvals process have a more robust vision to support than a mere collection of minimum commitments. Download our ebook. It explores how infusing sustainability into the master planning process helps create a story that ensures maximum and enduring value to all.


The best master plans address sustainability, climate resilience, and wellness from the outset. By linking sustainability, resilience, and wellness to the stakeholder group’s values and the developer’s business goals, those factors will be integrated with the site vision and requirements in a way that is organic and beneficial to all parties.

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