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A Tale of Small Retail Design

I had a small business owner reach out to me recently about some construction work done in her new consignment shop. She hired a contractor to add a dressing room and office in the rear of the store.


It turns out the contractor performed the work without a permit and the new construction didn't meet code. Her landlord's bad advice was that "it wasn't needed".


Turns out this is incredibly common for landlords to say to tenants. Anything to lease a space, right? You don't need a permit. You don't need an architect. Except you do.


Now the new shop owner intended to display a large sign outside her shop. However, she was unable to do so because the tenant space lacked a valid certificate of occupancy due to the unpermitted work.


In a difficult position and feeling the squeeze of a small budget, the frustrated shop owner needed to find the easiest and least expensive way to come into compliance with the code and get her shop operational.


Having already taken some bad advice that put her in this position, she was cautious and weary from the ordeal. The landlord had an architect draw up plans to fix the problems but then sold the building, so now she had a new landlord and no relationship to the architect. Also, the plans showed extra work that she didn't want to do. Expensive plumbing work that wasn't required by code. Frustrating! The city told her to make some plan changes that they would approve but those adjustments wouldn't have meet federal ADA laws, which are civil rights laws outside of their jurisdiction. In other words, no one had all the knowledge and ability to see all the parts of the project at once and understand it all as a whole. Except me, the architect!


I offered to start from the beginning but starting over was going to be out of the budget. So I came up with a strategy. After reviewing her plans and some of the correspondence she had with her landlord and the city, I was able to advise the owner on exactly what she needed to do to meet code and get her certificate of occupancy, saving time, money, and all the headaches that come with small projects. I told her step by step who to talk to and what to say to them. The solution I came up with did not involve any more work by either me or the other architect, and would meet all codes with one minimal move of a single wall and door.


I specialize in small and complex projects like this! Let me know if you have a small retail project and I can help you navigate the processes of design, permitting, and construction, correctly and with ease.






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