Tips For a Successful Tenant Improvement Project

By Randolph Mason, Senior Vice President & Partner, Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services

Completing improvements to a space can be a rewarding project, but there are some serious points to consider.

By Randolph Mason,
Senior Vice President & Partner, Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services

Completing tenant improvements to a space can be an exciting and rewarding project. There is a sense of accomplishment when someone takes a blank canvass and creates, what could be considered a work of art. The same idea could be true when one is building out a piece of real estate. The below will give you a starting point for creating a successful project.

Create a budget: It is important to set your budget objectives before you set your specific design objectives. Explaining to your architect what you can afford can save you time and design fees. Often the architect will create a design that is above any realistic budget should they not be provided with the financial perimeters.

Have a complete and accurate plan: It’s important to spend what’s reasonably necessary to create and complete a plan that allows you to make a good decision. Often people are afraid to spend too much money on architectural and engineering plans at the front end of a project. Every build out is unique, so having a plan that addresses as many of the buildings complexities and unique attributes as possible can help you stay within your budget later on down the road.

Consult with a contractor up front: Pay a few dollars and bring a contractor to meet with your architect when reviewing schematic drawings. Having a contractor present to bounce ideas off of can provide savings on materials and create a space that can be built simpler while maintaining the aesthetic properties that you are paying your architect for. Design changes late in the game add unnecessary fees, adds time to your schedule, and once again, once a project is built its very difficult and costly to make changes.

Meet with the city early on: While it may take a little extra time, setting up a pre-submittal meeting with the city agency can be time well spent. Taking a detailed conceptual plan to the building department prior to making a full submittal can save a lot of time and money. Meeting a plan checker at the counter to simply explain what your objectives are with the space and ask if they foresee any issues with your plan, can mean the difference between two plan checks and three, or possibly more.

Have competitive construction bids: It’s important to have at least three competitive bids in order to make sure you are getting the best pricing possible. It’s also important to make sure to look at each line item so the bids are considered apples to apples in comparison. Never presume the line item is inclusive and always ask questions and verify.

It’s always a good idea to have a competent project coordinator on your side should you not be able to devote the time or have the experience necessary in completing a construction project.

Randolph Mason, CCIM, SIOR, is a senior vice president in the Irvine, Calif., office of Lee & Associates, one of the nation’s largest commercial brokerage firms.