Commercial Overlay

Commercial Overlay Explained NYC Zoning

(Last Updated On: December 30, 2019)

A commercial overlay in NYC is an area located in a residential zoning district that allows for commercial use. You can have a commercial building or mixed use building in a residential zone. These uses are usually retail, restaurants, bakeries, beauty salons, small offices, etc…


Commercial Overlay In Residential Zoning NYC

Since commercial overlays are in primarily residential neighborhoods they often result in mixed use buildings depending on the zoning. Or one to two story commercial spaces. In these districts you have three options:

  1. Residential Building
  2. Commercial Building
  3. Mixed Use Building


Build a residential Building (Option 1)

You are not required to build a commercial building in a commercial overlay within a residential zoning district. So if you want to ignore the commercial aspect just build a regular residential building. For example, one of our clients had a property in Bushwick, Brooklyn that was in an R6 Residential Zone with a C2-3 Commercial Overlay. This client had no interest in the commercial use of the building so we designed a building as per typical R6 Zoning. See another post if you want to learn more about R6 Zoning. 

Build a commercial building (Option 2)

You have the choice of only building a commercial building with a retail store for example. If this is the case you need to follow the zoning regulations for the commercial overlay. Let’s use the example of the Bushwick project we mentioned. The building is in an R6 with a C2-3 zoning.

R6 with Quality Housing Program on a wide street has an FAR of 3

C2-3 Zoning has an FAR of of 2 when in an R6 Zoning district.  You have to use this FAR to determine the building square footage if it is only a commercial building.

If you do a building with only commercial you would have an FAR of 2 not 3. The commercial building would result in a smaller building than the residential.

Build a Mixed Use Building (Option 3)

As per NYC zoning a mixed use building is any building that has residential and another use in it. In residential districts with commercial overlays you can build mixed use buildings. The residential use has to be above the commercial portion.

In order to determine the FAR of a mixed use building you choose the higher of the 2 FARs.

If the Residential FAR is 3 and the Commercial FAR is 2 the the entire mixed use building can be 3. Since the Commercial is the smaller use it cannot exceed an FAR of 2. You can build the commercial less than its max FAR but you cannot build more than 2.

Commercial Overlay Zoning Districts:

In R1R5 with the exception of R5B The FAR for a commercial overlay is always 1.

In R5b and R6 – R10 The FAR for a commercial overlay is always 2.

The specific commercial uses permitted change depending on the commercial overlay bellow is a list of all commercial overlay districts. Remember these are all located within a residential districts. They may have parking requirements depending on size and use.


NYC Commercial Overlay

NYC Commercial Overlay Map Example


Commercial Overlay Zoning

As an architect I study Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to Commercial Overlay Zoning. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Thank You for reading our blog post on NYC Commercial Overlay Zoning.

I hope this was helpful. If you want to discuss a specific project with an architect please feel free to Contact Fontan Architecture. We will be happy to help. Or learn more about or NYC Architecture Firm.



  • Jay

    January 10, 2017 7:32 pm

    Taking this example, in C2-3/R7A zoning, what would be the FAR ? is it 4. Are you limited by parking requirements

      • Sanjay

        January 13, 2017 3:01 am

        Isn’t the parking requirement waived if you need 15 or less parking spots ? For a small lot of 2500 sq feet in this zoning, with 65% coverage max, if you put 1600 feet commercial and consider 14 residential units of 602 sq feet each, there is not enough space for 50% unit parkingWill appreciate if you can clarify this point I’m looking at a lot and will appreciate your help

          • arye jungreis

            June 4, 2018 8:23 pm

            the 10,000sf you mentioned is the tax lot or the zoning lot?


  • Tang

    April 6, 2017 8:25 pm

    Currently I have a C2-2/R5 8,000 sqft lot. Would like to build a Condo and commercial mixed used building. What will be the approximate buildable square feet? And I heard if I build community center like for day care of doctor office, it will be exclude my buildable square feet? Thank you very much!

      • Tang

        April 6, 2017 9:04 pm

        thank you for your quick reply. Therefore i would have approximate 8,000 x 3 = 24,000 sqft total for Commercial, Community Facility, and Residential mixed together? Would it be individual FAR for Commercial, Community Facility, and Residential?

    • Tang

      April 6, 2017 9:07 pm

      Would it be FAR 1.0 for the commercial space, 1.25 FAR for residential space, and 2.0 FAR for community facility space?

  • Nathan S

    June 14, 2017 3:17 am

    Hey, I have a 80×100 lot in an R5 with a FAR of 1.25 Residential and 2.0 Facility does that mean I have the total amount of both as buildable?

      • Nathan S

        June 14, 2017 11:01 pm

        Thank you!

      • Mathew

        June 23, 2017 1:20 pm

        I have a 100×125 lot with R6 zoning. It’s on a wide street outside Manhattan.

        If I wanted to do mixed use, based on your explanation above I would have 4.8 FAR total with 3.0 as my max residential and 1.8 for the community facility. This means 37, 500 sq. ft. residential and 22,500 sq. ft. of community facility.

        The max building height for R6 is 70 ft. This would be your limiting factor at that point.

        Would I be correct in saying that at that point the architect would come in and develop floorplans to maximize residential unit size and the community facility area? I am trying to develop a pro forma plan and was wondering how off the initial pro forma numbers would be vs. the actual developed plans.

  • Reed

    August 27, 2017 6:55 am

    Hello Jorge,

    Thank you so much for this information. Very helpful. Based on the above information. I want to check if I understand this correctly,

    Question 1:

    If I have a lot that is approximately 9,800, located in an R5 zone (assuming R5 infill), with an FAR of 1.65, this lot will produce a maximum floor area of 16,170 sqft?

    The maximum # of dwellings for an R5 is based on the factor of ‘760’ and based on FAR will yield 21 units. Is that correct? In addition calculating the 66% parking would make = 14 parking lots.

    Question 2

    If we factor in C1-2 overlay with an FAR of 1 onto the same lot, we are left with one level of commercial, and two levels of residential that results in 14 units and 9 parking lots?

    Just wanted to check if understand this correctly? Otherwise I might need to consult a professional. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.



  • Simon M

    September 6, 2017 12:42 pm

    I have a 41×100 lot which is divided in R5 & R6 zoning. 21 feet is in R6a zoning and within 100 ft from wide street and 20 feet is in R5 zoning. My question is does the majority rule and I get the R6a for the full property?

  • Sol Kopelowitz

    September 14, 2017 11:31 pm

    Hello Jorge,
    Thank you for providing all of this information. I have a lot that is C1-3 in R5 district. Am I correct in saying that total Residential FAR is 1.25 plus .75 facility bonus to be used as facility? Does the commercial zoning become completely irrelevant? If the building would be used as both a community facility and residential units how would that play into my parking requirements?

  • Vishal

    October 11, 2017 4:40 am


    I have a 45×25 lot zoned R6 with a commercial overlay of C2-3. I would like to develop a mixed use building and build out the 1st floor as a commercial space from back to front and side to side of the lot lines but using less than the available commercial FAR of 2.0 while I would like to use the quality housing FAR of 2.2 to build 2 X 2 bedroom apartments above the commercial space using a set-back from the 2nd floor. I would like to build either 2 single floor 2 bedroom residential unit on the 2nd and 3rd floor or a duplex 2 bedroom unit on the 3rd and 4th floor. Is this possible on this lot size?

    Appreciate your advice



  • Robert H

    January 1, 2018 10:50 pm

    In an R7A district with a C1-5 commercial overlay, is it the residential district that determines the lot coverage and rear yard requirements? That is my understanding, which means there’s a limit to the depth you can build a first floor commercial space. I’ve looked closely at the Zoning Resolution but the answer is not perfectly clear.

      • Ivan Ilyashov

        January 22, 2018 8:00 pm

        Hello Jorge,

        I have a situation similar to Robert. I’m considering a 20′ x 100′ property in an R7B district with a C1-4 commercial overlay on an 8′ x 100′ portion of the site. Any advantages to having this commercial overlay?

  • NAS

    February 1, 2018 1:51 am

    Thank you for your forum. It’s very helpful.

    I have two adjacent lots of equal size. 26.66 x 100.92. R7D with C1-5 overlay. Res.FAR=4.2, Comm.FAR=2. It’s on a narrow street (<75 ft – Q1: actually, is the measurement taken from lot-to-lot across the street from each other or from curb-to-curb? ) . One of two lots closest to the corner, has two lots between it and Lexington Avenue. These two lots measure a total of 38.33 ft before reaching the corner at Lexington Avenue. So both my lots are close to the corner Q2: Am I exempt from the rear yard req. because of this or by reason of the C1-5 overlay? Q3: If not, can I instead build the first floor over the entire lot (as commercial) and use it's roof as open space for the residential units above the ground floor store? Q4: Finally, do you round up or down when finding the integer for dwelling units?

    Thank you for your time.

  • Akash

    March 6, 2018 10:21 pm

    Hello Jorge,

    Can total commercial building like hotel can be done on R7X, C2-4 if its right by interstate highway?

  • Dean Tyler

    April 16, 2018 2:48 pm

    Hi Jorge, Very informative answers. I am looking at a lot with a fallow building on it that I would be demolishing and starting over. The lot is small, 20 x 60, in an R7A district with a C2-4 overlay. It also lies within an optional Inclusionary Housing Zone. I hope I have figured this right, with the R7A would give me a 4.0 FAR with up to 2.0 FAR being used for commercial. If I were to devote 20% of the residential to “affordable” as designated in the Inclusionary program, would my total allowable FAR increase by 33% to 5.333 (6400 sq ft based on the 1200sf lot)?

    Also what are the lot coverage restrictions with a mixed use building. To get the Commercial far of 2.0 can I do complete lot coverage for the first 2 stories and then set back the residential?

  • david corell

    May 10, 2018 1:17 am

    Hello Jorge, thank you very much for your post. I will appreciate if you can clarify my doubts, I want to buy a property on a R8 zone (FAR 6) C2-5 overlay. It is a 3 story office building, small plot, 25×32, so 788 sq. ft.
    Is it possible to redevelop, just residential, maybe 1 parking on Ground Floor, using that FAR 6? So, if I do a residential development there, Do I have 4,728 buildable square foot?

    Please let me know

    Thank you very much

  • 74dB

    June 17, 2019 12:23 pm

    Hi Jorge, your insights are very valuable to this community. We are looking at purchasing a 25.25×80 interior lot in a R6A/C2-4 with an existing mixed use building. Do you think we could extend the lower commercial portion to fully cover the lot?

  • Alan

    July 9, 2019 5:35 pm

    Hi Jorge,
    Thanks a lot for your article on zoning analysis. It helps a lot. I have a small questions regarding the zoning. I was wondering if you could shed some light on that. Thanks.

    We are going to acquire a lot about 20,000sf in Bronx. it is a irregular shape double street frontage lot with width of 76ft and depth about 300ft. One street in front of the lot is wide street, the other is narrow. It is a R6 overlay with C1-2. The residential FAR for wide street is 3 FAR and for narrow is 2.2FAR. The commercial FAR is 2. My questions are 1, How we calculate the buildable sf of the lot? 2, the overlay for C1-2 is only 150ft depth. how we calculate the commercial FAR? Multiply the lot size by 2FAR? or only calculate the 76*150*2. When we build the commercial base, can we build on the non-commercial overlay part of the lot? Thanks!


  • Philip Gardiner

    July 11, 2019 5:06 pm

    Great article. Zoning is really complex. If I have a community use school (Use Group 3), is a building that is zoned R8A/J considered As-Of-Right, i.e. no special permit or variance required? Also, the community facility FAR is 6 but the site is located on a wide street one block off Jerome Ave in the Bronx. My understanding is that this adds an additional 1.2 in FAR. Can you confirm this? Thanks.

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