A common model for my clients is to identify outlying properties on high traffic count thoroughfares that are likely to eventually be commercial development sites. This provides them with more potential upside at resale. The most common question: "How do I KNOW that a subject property is going to eventually be a commercial development site?". Well, you don't. No one does. Crystal balls are not available on Amazon. It is the ability of the investor (or their team) to select properties with the highest probability of evolving to a development site that allows one to capitalize on this type of circumstance.
One step many people skip (including paid professionals), because it is a lot of work, is review of the related comprehensive plans (current and historical). Evaluating how zoning/overlays, infrastructure, etc. have evolved over the years and how aligned the comprehensive plan was with what transpired will assist you in determining how much weight the plan may carry in your strategy design. When evaluating the current plan you may discover the property is situated in the middle of an area they expect to become commercially zoned and have a fair degree of confidence the property is likely to become a development site. You may discover that it is right on the outer edge of an area expected to have commercial zoning in the future suggesting it may or may not be a likely candidate for the desired zoning shift. That data couple with traffic counts, lot size, locations of other commercial property, etc. will provide you with a confidence as you design your strategy.
Reality is comprehensive plans are subject to change, a lot of it, throughout the years. If well made they should be one of many resources employed to compile data to drive your overall strategy. A well crafted comprehensive plan offers up all kinds of additional data such as density, transportation design, infrastructure development, the quality of the vendors used tin the planning or execution of said plan, natural resource application, inter-governmental relationships, etc. In economically deprived areas you may discover a boilerplate plan that has very little substance or value at all that demonstrates a clear inability or budget of the local governance to have any significant impact on the area's evolution during your expected hold period.
Don't skip plan review, even if you do not cultivate data that impacts your decisions related to the property in question you will most definitely use the information in the evolution of your overall portfolio strategy. If you're looking at a plan for the first time and need assistance evaluating it, pop me an email.