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Commercial Building Renovation Process Guide

This step by step process guide to renovating a commercial building in Duluth Minnesota

Below is a basic outline of the steps we recommend taking in pursuing the renovation of a commercial building in the City of Duluth. Locations outside the City limits would result in a similar process, with differing requirements per jurisdiction.

This is a holistic approach. An approach of understanding the opportunities and limitations before beginning the search for the ideal building. We would recommend engaging an Architect and other professional partners from beginning to end to ensure a smooth process. Following the steps below can provide you with a robust toolkit to make informed decisions.

The steps below represent a linear path, yet the search | design | construction process isn’t always linear. It’s an iterative process, which leads to a product; a product that is not known from the start. Though an intentional process will guide the outcome. This, we believe, is

what makes building and design so exciting and memorable, creating together based on your specific situation and needs.


Schedule + diagram space needs + adjacencies; interior and exterior. Research basic code understanding, such as Occupancy Group per the Minnesota State Building Code and Zoning Classification per the Unified Development Code, City of Duluth. Get to know your architect through this process or dive in and do the work yourself.

RESULT: Tools to aid in the search for the ideal building.


Architectural analysis of zoning, building, accessibility, and energy codes specific to your business type. Note, the Minnesota building codes were updated to the 2020 version.

RESULT: Report describing potential building requirements specific to your business type and needs to aid in your building search. Insight on potential code requirements that could impact construction costs. Information to assist in lease or purchase negotiation.


Engage a collaborative group of professional partners with trade expertise, including your architect, engineers, and contractor.

RESULT: Your goals are assessed from all angles to keep you on schedule and within budget.


Solicit any required environmental assessments. Team walk through of existing building. Analyze building and codes specific to the building, through the lens of the proposed business use. As required, analyze existing structural and mechanical systems.

RESULT: Determine go or no-go on building researched.


Derived from discussions, visual inspiration, and the customer experience you envision, your architect can interpret your ideas and vision into a unique design solution; presented as conceptual floor plans, site plan, and/or elevations.

RESULT: Satisfy lender requirements. Solicit initial construction estimate.


Meet with City of Duluth planning staff to discuss project and schedule.

RESULT: Understand City expectations of zoning and building code requirements.


Develop the conceptual design into construction documents. Contract your architect and engineers to design your vision into fruition.

RESULT: Construction documents for review and approval of the City of Duluth and other required agencies. Granted permit to build.


Secure your contractor on to the team to build your vision. Your architect and engineers oversee the construction to ensure your vision is realized, as designed.

RESULT: Renovated building ready for inspection.


Inspections by the City of Duluth and other required agencies.

RESULT: Certificate of Occupancy to move into your space. Obtain licenses from other required agencies.


Eleven month walk through with owner, architect, and contractor to review the post occupancy performance of the building.

RESULT: Contractor adjusts, or repairs work if needed, as per warranty.

The process may present itself in a different order than the outline above. It’s important to remember that each project or situation is unique. The many decisions along the way will clarify and define your path. This outline is intended to introduce you to an intentional approach to the design and construction process.

The City has updated their website and has added commonly asked questions and code requirements. This site is also a great place to start your research.

Download Process Guide


To learn more about our design process and talk about your ideas for opening a brick and mortar, reach out at:

The process to opening the doors of your business can seem intimidating, long, and expensive. It is our goal to educate you and assist in cutting through the red tape to make the process as smooth as possible. It is our guarantee to be transparent and advocate for you and your project every step of the way.

[image credit: Christian Kock, Unsplash]


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