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.

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{ 164 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Dalvit February 27, 2015 at 7:15 am

Peter,
We have designed breweries in other markets like Denver, and based on the index pricing, I would start with a ballpark expectation of $80-$100 per square foot for your location on Cape Cod. This would be for a minimal level of finish and of course would not include any FF&E costs. Let us know if you are in need of any assistance in the design or engineering of your project and we would be happy to help. Thanks!

Peter February 25, 2015 at 10:47 am

Dean,

I am trying to price out what it would cost to do a 100×50 building with 20 foot celling on Cape Cod. The space would be used for a brewery – so basically we just need a big wide open space for the equipment and the basic plumbing, electrical hook-ups for the brew system. The interior would be finished with just the basics to pass code and with surfaces that can easily be cleaned. We were hoping to do a shingled facade to give it a nicer exterior.

Not sure if you can help with this this!

Thanks,
Pete

Dean Dalvit February 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Marc,
That’s a tricky one because of the change in use. Assuming that mixed use with residential is allowed by the local zoning code, the new use could require a great number of changes to the existing building from fire rated assemblies to accessibility requirements and possibly even type of building construction. We have done quite a bit of adaptive re-use for older buildings as well as changes of occupancy. They can be complicated, but they are doable if the conditions allow. The first step would be a thorough assessment of the existing building along with a zoning study. Once all of the factors involved are fully understood, then you can put construction numbers to the project based on what would be required. This is a service that we provide, so if you would like to pursue those steps, let us know and we would he happy to help.

Marc February 7, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Not sure if anyone can answer this question but I have a friend that owns a office building two stories in downtown Detroit he only uses the bottom half of it and the upper half which is all empty no walls approximately 4000 sf he wants to put apartments up there maybe four or five do you know the approximate cost from framing walls to finish thanks for the help in advance

Dean Dalvit February 6, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Glen,
Thanks for your question. For a core and shell building in the Chicago area, I would budget approximately $80-$95/sq.ft., so you would be looking at the mid $3M ballpark. I’m assuming the shell does have basic MEP systems and does not require any unusually large spans for the structural grid. Also, I’m assuming an empty building, so your racking systems, or anything else in the building would be a separate FFE cost. We’ve done quite a bit of warehouse and storage work and would be happy to help with your project if you are in need of a design team – Just let us know. I hope that helps – good luck!

Dean Dalvit February 6, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Ed,
Thanks for your comment. You are correct – the data set in this post is from 2009, and based on the previous years’ numbers. Interestingly though, we are finding that the construction cost data from that timeframe is surprisingly consistent with today’s numbers. The reason being is that the shakeup in the construction industry due to the recession caused both falling, then rising trends. Across the board, in many industries, by 2013, we caught back up to about the same point as we were before the crash and have stabilized since then. I intend to research last year’s data in more detail in order to update the post, but in the meantime, the numbers are still holding reasonably valid.

So, with that said, the 5,000 sq.ft. building, assuming it is an office use (different uses have widely different construction costs), would be just around $900k for the building in your location. I’m unclear what you mean by the 2,000 sq.ft. of parking – is this just surface parking or is there a structure there? For surface parking, the site improvements will depend on a variety of factors from required curb and gutter, drainage facilities, landscaping and surfacing. For the purposes of a raw ballpark, assuming the grading and excavation is already complete, you might start with about $15/sq.ft., or around $30k for your parking lot. That would, of course, need to be validated against a real plan that meets all of the city’s regulations. At that point, a line item budget would be more appropriate.

EVstudio does have a California affiliate and we would be happy to discuss your project with you if you are in need of a licensed architectural design team to get you the necessary construction documents for permitting and construction. After programming, we would also be able to tighten the entire budget up as well. Just let us know and we are happy to help.

glenn February 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Hi Dean, great site I am trying to help out an old timer to figure out what an enclosed dry rack storage building shell 100×400 would run 50 miles outside of Chicago I’m on the other side of the country and have no idea

ed markley February 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

Dean,

It appears that your article was written in 2009 and that is what your construction numbers are based on. Am I correct
In thinking that? If yes, what would be the current cost of construction on a per sq. ft. Bases for the above described buildings in the Los Angeles area ?

I would like to build a new single story 5,000 sq ft commercial building on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks, CA. That 5,000 feet does not include the 2,000 sq ft parking lot directly behind the building. What would be the approximate additional cost of that 2000 foot parking area ?

Thanks much for your all your help

Ed

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.
Thanks

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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