Commercial to Residential Conversion

Commercial to Residential Conversion

(Last Updated On: August 22, 2018)

Adaptive reuse is the practice of appropriating a building with one use and converting to another. Building conversions are a much more sustainable building practice then demolishing a building and building a new one. If the building is in good enough shape you will save a great deal of resources and money if you keep it. Converting a commercial to residential use is common enough that it may make sense in many situations.


Converting Commercial To Residential 

Converting a commercial building into a residential use is relatively common. There will be zoning and building code issues to investigate. You will need to assess the existing building to determine if it will work for residential use and establish a budget for the building conversion.


Commercial To Residential Conversion NYC

In New York City almost all commercial zoning districts have a residential equivalent. This means residential use is typically allowed in commercial zoning districts. The commercial zone is matched with a residential equivalent zone. you will need to have an architect review the property zoning before you decide to convert your commercial building to residential use. If the zoning allows it then you can proceed with the project. If the zoning does not allow for the building conversion then you may have the option to file for a zoning variance. These are time consuming and difficult to receive.

While you are figuring out the zoning you should also be assessing the building. It is never to early in my opinion to bring in a contractor. You will have your architect and engineers investigate and asses the existing building conditions.


Commercial To Residential Property Conversions

I like the idea of keeping a building in good shape for a conversion. This is a good idea for sustainable building practices. It is always better to reuse a building if you can. Be prepared a building use conversion will require a major gut renovation. If the building shell is in god shape you may only have to renovate the interiors. The newly renovated building will have to comply with all applicable residential building codes.


NYC Requirements for Commercial To Residential Conversion

If you are converting a building it will always be filed as an Alteration Type 1 or Alt 1, some Alt 1s are required to follow New Building Requirements. Upon completion of your project you will need to get a new Certificate Of Occupancy. Here is a list of a few things you will need:

  • ADA accessibility.
    • If this is a multifamily building you will need Handicapped Accessibility as per ADA guidelines.
  • Elevators
    • If the building is over 4 stories you will need an elevator if you do not have one already.
  • Fire Alarm
    • If the building is over 3 stories it will need a fire alarm.
  • Fire Sprinklers
    • The building will need fire sprinklers in NYC.
  • Multiple Means of Egress
    • You may need to add stairs depending on the size and construction of the building.
  • Natural Light and Air
    • Every “habitable room” will need natural light and air. This may require new window openings in the building or may not. The architects can try to work within the existing shell or alter it to add windows in necessary.


Thank You for reading our blog post on Commercial to Residential Conversions

I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to leave questions or comments below. If you want to discuss a specific project you can contact us directly. We wish you the best of luck on your projects.


Author Jorge Fontan AIA

This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.


  • Joe falco

    September 4, 2018 6:31 pm

    I’m considering converting my building to mixed use, how do I found out if it can be done? Thanks joe

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