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Group 41 San Francisco Architects - Modern Architecture

Posts Tagged ‘tenant’

COMMERCIAL PROJECTS for the small business

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

I am almost daily struck by the extraordinary lack of information available for small retail shop owners and office tenants about how to go about improvements in their spaces and the raft of legal, leasing, technical, construction, permit, and other issues that confront them. Just a couple days ago, in chatting with a commercial leasing broker, she expressed her own frustration in not having available information to give her smaller clients who don’t know what it takes to do a fit-up on a new space.

The biggest problem is that small tenants think, for example “…Oh, this isn’t a big deal, we’ll just do some display cases, a few refrigerated displays, a small toilet room in the back for the staff, shouldn’t be a big deal…”. The single sentence I just quoted contained a virtual minefield of potential issues to confront that could take several months to iron out, and cost significant amounts of money for a tenant. In the case of an inexperienced or uninformed small business owner, that could result in the negotiation of a very unfavorable lease, and enormous problems down the road. Businesses come and go all the time. But as a small business owner, the one and only thing you most care about is your business, and if you do not take the steps necessary, you could find your business bankrupt as well. When a lease clock is ticking away, there can be significant financial burdens, if not virtual financial ruin before the doors of the store ever even open.

It is imperative that small business owners consult knowledgeable commercial realtors, as well as architects if they plan to do any sort of work at all in improvements. Simple budgeting of costs can reveal all sorts of problems, but in the example above, there are Health Department issues (refrigerated displays require exterior drip lines to floor sinks which can be extremely costly), ADA Accessibility issues (a “small toilet room in the back for staff” still must meet all handicapped access guidelines, eating up serious square footage at significant costs), even “dry” display cases must meet accessibility requirements for wheelchair access, and a store must provide a wheel-up, low and accessible transaction counter at the register in addition to the normal height one for customer transactions. This will also add to the cabinetwork costs. Put these kinds of headaches that could add enormous costs on top of all of your normal business start-up or move issues, and you could back yourself into a serious corner after signing a lease. Issues could come up, like occupancy counts (do you know why 49 is a magical number in a store? If you don’t, you could cost yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars without knowing it after you sign a lease) and egress doors (how many inches will keep you from having to install a full sprinkler system at tens of thousands of dollars cost?). And what about food? Are you planning to serve any food in your coffee café? Do you know if you need Type I or Type II hoods? If you don’t you could, again, cost yourself a ton of money.

The cost of a few hours of consulting time by an architect and an experienced real estate broker are worth far more in the long run in potential problems and headaches to you. Any experienced architect will be happy to spend an hour or two at their normal billing rates to advise you of the major pitfalls related to your particular situation. In a complicated regulatory environment like San Francisco, unfortunately, there are too many constraints and requirements to be condensed to a simple text or “guidebook”. An experienced architect is the resource that will give the small business owner the best perspective on what the primary issues will be for that particular location. Get some good advice before you dive into your venture!!

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