As a General Contractor that does primarily negotiated work, we often find ourselves helping clients select their next space.

Job site visits are essential during the feasibility period prior to purchase or lease negotiations. Sometimes, the project has an architect in mind, other times we help our clients make that connection.  Because there are enough common items that can be overlooked when viewing an “ideal” space that provide allure to the client, we felt it could be helpful to share some provoking questions and thoughts.

What is the age of the existing structure?

In general, the newer the space the better.  Age could equate to costly code updates or ADA issues.  Often the jurisdiction will take the opportunity to upgrade existing conditions when issuing a new construction permit.  Consider the sidewalks or ramps used to access the space.  What is the structure of the building – wood, masonry, concrete?  Are there seismic and code considerations due to the age of the structure?


Is the building or space zoned for the use the client needs?

If a change of use will be required during permitting, there could be other triggered improvements.  Sometimes the change of use can drag out for a year or more.  What was there before?  The type of construction permit required could cause a lengthy plan review.  Could there be hazardous materials present such as lead paint, asbestos, oil tanks?  Is there adequate and accessible parking? We toured a new retail shell with a client last week that had enough parking but the wayfinding that would be needed to get their patrons from parking to the space was awkward and cumbersome.  If the space is new, what utilities have been provided and are they adequate?

Existing utilities:

Is there an existing fire sprinkler? If not, is there sufficient availability for a new service? For example, we installed a fire sprinkler system into an older Sorority building last year but are still pursuing a water line improvement before those sprinklers can be put to use.  That water main will add $650,000 to the cost of the sprinkler system.

Is there adequate power to the space to provide for the types of new equipment?  If the space is new, has the power been brought to the space?

Is there adequate ventilation?  If required, are there provisions for a hood vent?

Is the existing gas service adequate? Be sure to know what you need.

Will the existing sewer line work for the new space?

Elevator.  Is there one?  Is it the right size and is it accessible? Is it in good repair or does it require a modernization?

What is around the space?

Will work be required in adjacent structures?  Are there any shared partitions or structures?  Are there spaces above or below your future space that will be impacted by your work?  Think about how adding bathrooms to your new build-out could impact the plaster ceiling of the café below you.


In general, less work to get into a new space equals a lower cost, a shorter permit duration and reduced financing costs.  But in new work there can be negotiating room in landlord work versus tenant work, so be sure to get clarity around what is being provided.  Often times, the first tenants in a new building can find themselves paying for things that future tenants may benefit from.