How long will this commercial construction project take?

Image includes a timeline for a large project on a white-board, including separate weeks and details posted with post its on the board.

You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve found commercial real estate, acquired funding, and signed a lease. Now you need to break ground or begin making your desired tenant improvements. This means it will take some time before you’re able to open the doors to your new business, but just how long?

Understanding the factors  

There are several factors that can affect a project’s timeline, such as size, scope, and permitting.

Some projects may take anywhere from 12-16 weeks, but these would typically be smaller in scale and more like an interior remodel vs. a new build-out. This would be things like adding interior finishes, building a new room, or adding some built-in cabinetry. If you’re talking about ground-up construction, there is a much bigger variable. These projects can take anywhere from 9 months to 5 years depending again on the size and scope of the build and the permitting and approval process. 

Each municipality has different processes and procedures for how you get an approved permit. In some cases, you can walk in and hand over the paperwork and you might get your permit back in a week. In other situations, depending on where the building is located, you might need approval from a historic district or association. This is because they have Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). It means that the organization (like a historic association) is responsible for enforcing the code or standard, or for approving permits. 

Some permits require state approval in addition to municipal. It’s different across the country, so it’s important to be aware of these requirements or work with someone who can guide you through the process, like an architect who is familiar with your local/regional requirements.

There are also elements of a project that may need their own permit, like exterior signage. Signage needs its own permit separate from construction and you need to get approval from the landlord before you install anything.

If you are opening a restaurant or any kind of hospitality space, you will need to work with the health department as well. They get engaged when you submit the drawings to the city for approval. The health department will provide their feedback on the plans, and you will be unable to proceed until this takes place. In fact, you may need to make alterations to the plans based on their feedback. After you make any changes, you are required to re-submit to the city. This entire process could take three or four tries before the plans are approved. 

Setting your priorities

Aside from the required approvals and the length of time it takes to acquire them, your own priorities can affect the timeline of the project. There are three things most people value when executing on any project: time, money, and quality.

  • Time: If you value time the most, you may not want to require a bidding process. This eliminates a lengthy step and speeds up the entire process, but because you are not comparing costs it could be more expensive in the long run to do this.
  • Money: If you want to make sure you’re getting the best cost, bidding is recommended. You will be able to see who has the best pricing and make decisions based on that information. This may take a bit longer, but keep in mind, project managers can help walk you through this and sift through the information with you to alleviate that stress.  
  • Quality: Often we equate high quality with high cost, and this can definitely be true, but you may save money in the long run if you buy a product or service that withstands the test if time or performs above specifications.

How long your project will take will vary based on size, scope, permitting, and the individual priorities you have. Once you get started, it’s important to establish a schedule so that you and everyone involved understands the desired completion date.

One of the services that project managers can provide for you is creating this high-level schedule to adhere to. Not only does it clarify how long your commercial real estate project will take, but it can set expectations for the whole team. 

All projects take many people and many processes. We are here to help guide you and keep everyone aligned as the project progresses.