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got questions?
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  • • How do I get started?
    Reach out to us on our contact page and we will respond as soon as we can.
  • • What do I need before hiring Brick and Mortar to help design my space? And when is the best time to do so?
    Only your BIG IDEA. That's right! The best time for you to come to us is when your store is just an idea. NO paperwork, NO ownership, NO physical space required. You see, most people don't think of hiring an architect until they've secured a property. But understanding what to look for in a building before beginning your search will save you time and money in the long run.
  • • How do I know whether we're a good fit?
    Great question! Just like every person is not your customer, not all projects might be a fit for our services. However, if you are a passionate small business owner interested in revitalizing an existing commercial tenant space or building in Minnesota or Wisconsin, you’ve come to the right place. We value educating our clients throughout the process so you can feel confident that you’re making informed decisions about the future of your business. To see projects and clients we’ve worked with in the past, check out our recent work.
  • • So, what exactly can I expect from an architecture firm like yours?
    You can count on us to be your partner in crime from the day you decide you want to set up a shop to the day your store is officially open for business. From helping you find the right space and engaging trade partners to designing and overseeing construction, we're truly the complete package! However, what sets our firm apart from the rest is the predesign services we can offer you. Because the function of your business informs the requirements for the building, we can help you better navigate the search for the commercial space that best fits your business needs.
  • • How much money should I plan to invest in the design phase?
    Since every project is customized to your needs, your investment will depend on the size and complexity of the building, design, and renovation work involved. To help you better understand the scope of your project, we have service packages with base line pricing based on where you are in the process already. A good ballpark estimate for architectural fees is 9-12% of the construction cost, depending on scope and the architect’s degree of involvement. That said, the earlier in the process you engage us and other trade partners for estimates, the more we can help you stay within budget – plus save you money and time down the road.
  • • What are the next steps for renovating a commercial space?
    The Commercial Building Renovation Guide is a great next step for understanding the process. To connect with Brick and Mortar about your project fill out our contact form to setup a discovery call.
  • • How much does renovation construction typically cost, and who is the best person to give me a quote?
    We can discuss the range of cost we’ve seen in recent projects, though it’s best to engage with a building partner during the design phase to gather the most accurate estimate. Doing so will help ensure that we're staying within your original budget and further inform material availability and lead time recommendations. And if you don't already have a builder in mind, we'll be more than happy to make some recommendations for one of our trusted building partners.
  • • How long will it take before I can officially have my location open for business?
    The best response to this question will be available once we complete the discovery phase and consult with your building partners. But typically, projects are divided into at least three phases: discovery (1-2 months), design (3-6 months + a few additional weeks for the permitting process), and construction (3-12+ months).
  • • Why doesn’t the City give me clear direction on opening a brick-and-mortar?
    While the City is responsible for saying yes or no to a proposed solution, it is not liable for suggesting a path or solution that isn’t holistically assessed. Luckily, you can count on us to be in your corner to help you understand the needs of your potential space and the requirements of the City before you even begin the search for your building or site.
  • • Does the City have specific zoning and building code requirements of which I need to be aware?
    In short, yes! Many towns have their own zoning codes that classify the types of businesses that can operate there. They may also dictate specifics about the exterior of the building and site if it's in a business district. Check out Duluth's Unified Development Code and Superior Zoning Code of Ordinances to learn more about specific requirements. You should also be aware of things like energy codes and accessibility requirements when considering any changes to a building. For example, if the exterior of a commercial building is altered, the code may require that assembly be updated to current energy efficiency requirements Depending on the use of your space, the building may need to be sprinkled, which will require investigating the size and capacity of the existing water main coming into the building. Depending upon the use of the upper levels of the building, the code may require an elevator. These are the types of requirements we would assess based your business’ needs and the existing building conditions.
  • • How do I know if I need a permit?
    The general rule is any time a physical change (demolition or new build) is happening to or on the site of a commercial building, a permit is required. Even if you're not changing the physical space, if your new business is classified as a different building occupancy group or change of use within the same occupancy group, the City of Duluth requires a Commercial Change of Use permit, which includes a code summary and a life safety plan to obtain your certificate of occupancy. In order for a design professional to create the required documents, to scale building plans are needed. Check out the City of Duluth's website to learn more about specific permit requirements.
  • • What does the term "building occupancy" mean?
    Building occupancy is the classification of the business or residential use of a building as defined by the Building Code. Knowing this helps determine the requirements for things like egress (doors, travel distance, level of protection), accessibility (route, required spaces, elevator), fire protection needed (sprinkler, separation of occupancies), and the number of bathrooms just to name a few.
  • • I already have a few ideas and Pinterest pictures on how I want my store to look…will that be helpful?
    Absolutely! We love it when our clients bring their ideas to the table or have a mood board in mind. And we can’t wait to use your inspiration to inform the design of your dream storefront!
  • • What additional work do I need if I want to expand my existing space?
    Ready to expand your building? In building out, most of the additions will likely involve increasing the building’s footprint at the ground level (horizontally). However, additions can also happen in buildings without necessarily expanding the footprint by adding one or more stories (vertically). To help you understand which expansion plan is best for your space and business, we can connect you with trade partners who can assess the building structure or survey the site to define property boundaries, topography, utilities, and more. There may also be environmental impact studies that may need to be conducted to determine possible contamination and any wetlands or trees of significance depending on the loan and jurisdiction requirements.
  • • Do you offer services to update existing businesses and storefronts?
    We sure do! Our Storefront Refresh package is perfect for you if you’ve already got a storefront open but need a little help with curb appeal, foot traffic, or store flow. After we clearly identify your goals, we’ll customize a plan to optimize your storefront performance to its full potential.
  • • Do you travel to projects?
    We are able to travel to projects within MN and WI for any of our services. For Retail design services we are able to consult virtually.

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