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Kevin Ahern

By: Kevin Ahern on June 6th, 2024

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Navigating the Change of Use Process for Your New Business Space in Connecticut

Commercial | Commercial Remodeling

Commercial spaces often see many owners and are used for different purposes before they're torn down. What starts as a warehouse can eventually be turned into a restaurant, apartments, a bank, an office building. The change of use process for a building can seem intimidating if you're a relatively new commercial property owner, but it doesn't have to be. Aligning yourself with the right team of professionals can help reduce stress and make the process smoother and easier. 

If you're a CT property owner with a building that needs to be changed to meet the needs of new tenants or a new type of organization, understanding the process can help you get started. This article will discuss how to assemble the right team, navigating the zoning process, and what to expect at each step of the way. 

Change of Use Process for Commercial Spaces

The change of use process for commercial spaces is the process of changing an existing building to meet new purposes or new needs. This may involve making changes like turning a bank into an office, a restaurant into a retail location, or a school into an apartment building. Change of use process is done all the time in various ways to give commercial spaces new life. 

Buy the Property

Change of use starts with buying the property. If you're starting out knowing that you'll be converting the building from one type of use to another, meeting with professionals like an architect and a contractor before finalizing the sale can help you make a budget while ensuring that your project is practical and affordable.

Start meeting with professionals early to avoid going too far into the process before realizing that the change of use isn't going to work for your business. Not all changes are affordable or can be made for a realistic cost. Knowing what's coming can help you plan. 

Find An Architect

Once the property has been purchased, and you're ready to begin the conversion, it's time to find an architect. The job of the architect is to lay down th preliminary designs and planning for your project. The architect can provide cost estimates and work closely with you to create designs that meet your needs.

It's important to remember that the architect's renovation cost estimates are estimates only. Once the design is finished, it's up to contractors to bid on the project. It's important to maintain flexibility at this stage, and to recognize that your project may cost more than the architect anticipated. 

The architect may help you pull together a team of building professionals by recommending contractors they've worked with in the past. It's helpful to work with a contractor and architect team that know each other, to facilitate communication. The architect will remain involved through the process, and will work with the contractor throughout to ensure a smooth construction and renovation. The more trust and better the rapport between the architect and contractor, the better the experience will be. 


Every Connecticut community has its own zoning laws, so the zoning process and regulations that will apply to you will depend on where the project is happening. Generally speaking, the professionals at the zoning office will help walk you through the process. They'll coach you through any anticipated problems or challenges, so you'll know what to anticipate. 

There will be public hearings to allow for public comment, and if you need a variance, there will be a separate process for that. As the owner of the property, you'll be the one to turn in the application and work directly with the zoning professionals.

Find a Contractor

Next, you'll find a Connecticut contractor. You're getting close to starting the work now, as you may already have worked with the zoning professionals to get permission to do the work, and you may already have designs from an architect. When you're looking for a contractor, it's important to find a business that has extensive experience working with architects on successful commercial renovation projects. 

Communication and collaboration is an essential part of this project, and your contractor should have extensive experience working together with teams of architects, project managers and other construction professionals. When you're meeting with contractors, meet on site and have a variety of questions prepared. Ask your contractor about successful projects they've worked on in the past. Get references for satisfied customers. Ideally, those references should be from clients who have gone through similar experiences. 

Ask about the timeline for finishing your project, and about any challenges the contractor anticipates. Once you're ready to start, you'll sign a contract, then the work will begin.

Get the Work Done

Maintain close communication with your contractor and architect throughout the renovation process. Your contractor will likely give you frequent updates and come to you when there are questions to be answered. Keep in mind that changes made to the design after the work has started can impact the cost, sometimes by quite a bit.

Changes made after work has begun can require some work to be undone. In addition, changes made will cause delays. Try to stick to the original plan once it's in place. 

Find the Right Professionals for Your Project

Assembling a high functioning team of professionals for your building renovation is important. To get started, download Litchfield Builders guide to hiring a contractor, or call the Litchfield Builders office to learn more about the change of use process in Connecticut. 

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About Kevin Ahern

Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.