Cost per Square Foot of Commercial Construction by Region

by Dean Dalvit on August 6, 2009

We get this question all the time: How much does it cost to build a commercial building? There is no quick answer and without more information about the project and its location, is essentially akin to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. However, there is some guidance provided we know where you are located and what kind of building you are looking to build. Local economy is a very important factor in construction cost as well as the type of construction you intend to build.

We subscribe to RSMeans’, researchers of construction cost data nationwide, and have come across some important current data on the cost of commercial construction for four different commercial project types as a function of their location. Note, that not all types of construction cost the same per square foot, and even more importantly, the cost of construction per square foot varies significantly with location.

Below are four different types of commercial construction and the varying cost per square foot to expect for each in different regions.  All graph images are courtesy of RSMeans Construction Cost Data. Data source: Reed Construction Data – RSMeans/Charts: Reed Construction Data – CanaData

One Story Office Building

As you can see from the range of cost per square foot, location alone can represent as much as 70% of the cost driver for a single story office building. The median for this type of construction is between $160 and $170 per square foot. Not surprisingly, New York tops the charts for most expensive city to build in for all of these building types.

Convenience Store

Convenience stores are generally less expensive to construct than the other building types because of their simpler nature.  The median cost for this commercial building type hovers around $100 per square foot.Fast Food

Because of the new trends in fast food being more boutique and less assembly line, the cost for a typical fast food restaurant is on the rise. Expenses for kitchen equipment also drive this building type to a median of near $200 per square foot, the most expensive of the four building types in this discussion.

Day Care

It is increasingly important to understand the cost drivers for any commercial project and how building type, construction type and location can all be huge variables that will drive your cost per square foot. These are always a part of the initial programming discussions and the Architect will play a huge role in helping to define the ranges of cost to expect for the project.


{ 156 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Dalvit January 7, 2015 at 8:10 am

Thanks JR for your question,

While the RSMeans data doesn’t conveniently package remodel data (likely because of so many unknowns), there are some rules of thumb. The big questions are what is the desired outcome of the remodeled space and what is the condition of the existing space? Are HVAC and electrical systems in good shape or do they need replacement? How is the exterior skin of the building, windows and doors? Is the core building structure and floors in good shape? Assuming you’re working with a good core and shell building and simply doing TI for the space, and it’s simply a renovation of a supermarket (no change of use or occupancy), then you’re really only looking at finish costs, which, for a large open space like that, assuming you’re not going boutique, may only be $15-$25 per square foot.

Often times, these older buildings are being re-purposed for a new use. For example, we recently renovated a supermarket to become office space. In that scenario, the costs go up due to level and quantity of finishes and the need for interior walls and MEP systems. In that case, the cost was closer to $40-$60 per square foot. And if the building itself has structural or MEP issues, you could easily wind up approaching a new construction cost per square foot of $100 or more.

I hope that helps. EVstudio has a depth of expertise in renovations of larger commercial space and retail tenant finish. We would be happy to discuss your project with you in more detail. Just let me know and I can reach out to you separately by email. Thanks!

JR January 7, 2015 at 3:22 am

Hello Dean,
Any thoughts on a cost per square foot to REMODEL an existing 10,000 sq ft supermarket in northern NJ? I am at the initial stages and am looking for a general range.

tailer November 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Yes near Los Angeles thank you Brian. And thank you Dean you have been a big help!! My project is on it’s way!

Dean Dalvit November 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Ah – thanks Brian, I can see that is definitely a possibility. Two possible Ontario, CA locations. In that case, I’d use the numbers for LA and budget a minimum of $152/Sq.Ft.. Hope that helps!

Brian November 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

Dean, I believe Tailer may be referring to Ontario, California, near Los Angeles.

Dean Dalvit November 3, 2014 at 8:38 am

Thanks Tailer,
While we don’t have RSMeans data for Canada, it is reasonable to infer from nearby US cities that an initial budget projection could be between $150 and $170 per square foot. That would apply to your 11,000 Sq.Ft. of finished space but would not include Land costs, Finance or Soft costs, or furnishings fixtures and equipment for operations. I hope that helps – best of luck with your project!

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