Ask the Architect

My building's in need of a tenant


Q. .I have a building that has been unoccupied for three years. I bought it because it was going to have a long-term tenant. They backed out, so I need to get the building rented. I have a prospect who wants me to get the permits for their animal grooming service operation, with possible overnight boarding. They’re only interested if the permits are ready to go. What is the minimum I can do to get the permit and get the tenant into the building to rent? The building is 8,000 square feet, and the tenant only needs about 5,000. Do I need more permits for another tenant, and can I get them both together to save money? I need to do this quickly, or the tenant will go elsewhere. What can be done?

A. Time and cost are a problem. You probably won’t get results in under seven months to a year. Building plans take time, and must involve the tenant’s specific input as to where walls, plumbing and equipment will be located.
Most people treat plans like they’re just a suggestion, to be changed later, but the reality is that the plans need to show very specifically what will be done. Those plans have to be filed with all the required application papers and a property survey with the building department, which will then put the plans in a lineup with all the other plan folders that come in that will eventually be reviewed. Depending on the size of the community, this process can take three to four months before you first hear back that your plans are objected to or rejected.
Once you learn that you can’t be approved with a straight-away permit, you may request that the file go into a request for varying from the zoning code, since most municipalities do not allow overnight animal boarding. This is the zoning variance request. A zoning case is separate from a building permit, and requires the preparation of a map of the property, along with neighboring properties — sometimes, depending on the community, as far away as 600 feet. For commercial use, some municipalities require that the map show the accurate outline of all buildings and names of tenants and owners on each property, prepared by a licensed land surveyor.
If the plans you submit on behalf of your potential tenant do not reflect the true layout of the shapes and sizes of rooms, the location of equipment, etc., you may find yourself applying again to repeat the process when a building inspector sees that the plans were not followed, so you and the tenant have to treat this process seriously.
Also, if the building is not yet outfitted with sprinklers, plan on another seven- to 10-month process with the fire marshal. It can take less, but this is a common time frame. This process cannot be rushed, and isn’t like getting a driver’s license. Each tenant’s plans will need to be filed for separately. Good luck!

© 2024 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.