Many developers and owners are drawn to existing buildings as a quick and inexpensive way to develop a new location. While many advantages exist with starting with an existing site many issues can effect the overall costs of development including:
Existing conditions versus new permitting requirements – Many times it is easy to assume that a facility can stay just as it is when redeveloped. When remodels are permitted permit officials can (and often do)require the entire facility be brought up to current development requirements. This can include changes required to meet handicap access (ADA), landscape ordinances (including trees), signage restrictions, and new color and finish requirements.
Electrical – many times older electrical service cannot provide the number of circuits required for new facilities. New electrical panels and even a new service line may be required.
Heating and Air – Most commercial HVAC units have a service life of 15 years. Be sure you try and contact the mechanical company that has provided service to the units. Often times they can tell you about the service history and reliablility of the units.
Plumbing – Adjustments and changes can be costly. Be careful of new requirements that may include changes for ADA requirements, grease traps, etc.
Be sure you contract with a commercial architect to do a site visit with field measurements and pictures. Even if the landlord supplies original construction drawings often times building dimensions will vary and the facility may have other undocumented changes. Although some elements and details of the construction may not be visible this step can save many hours in design and construction.
Also be careful with bidding remodels. Many owners want to do a fixed price project but these can almost impossible. No matter how much information you have on the design side, issues will arise as construction starts and demo work reveals conditions not previously known. You may want to consider a budget estimate with the project being cost plus. This way value add changes can save money on the overall project costs.