Commercial building codes / getting into the comm biz

Note: I’m not going to get into this without doing much further research, but I’m starting hear by asking a few basic questions… =)

I am considering building a small strip mall in Dallas, consisting mainly of 5 or so small 1000-2000 sq foot stores [dollar stores, hair salons, and such] with no anchors. I’ve seen this model to actually be very successful in the ethnic urban areas all around the big cities of Texas [Dallas, Houston, San Antonio].

I’ve got cash, and will pay in full for the land & construction of the project. There will be NO debt unless I choose to refi later.

I’ve seen several small strip malls be constructed purely as metal buildings, with basic insulation / fire suppression systems / basic lot / etc, and maybe a brick or stone front. And they lease up quick!!! It’s nuts. These are not fancy places, however I’m sure they’re not as cheap as they seem - but I know they are far more affordable looking than a strip mall in a high rent district.

Anyway - my question is - are commercial codes stringent? What do I need to look out for when I hire a builder/architect?

And is this business hard to break into [I don’t see why…if you’re properly educated]?

Dont know about Texas laws but in New York any construction over $25,000 requires either a certified architect or engineer.


You can start at the planning department for the county or municipality in which you plan to develop. They’ll have local building codes which will govern what and where you can build.

Whether you build by right or need to seek variances there will be a process through which you’ll take your plans. Most cities have handouts explaining the process. I would start with an online search for the local planning and development board.

If you plan to do vertical construction, site and drainage plans will probably be required, as will architectural designs. Those will have to be signed by a local engineer with a PE license or similar local certification. You may be able to use the services of a design/build firm that can do your plans, engineering, and architecture all in house. That will save you time and money, and they will also meet with the local planning board throughout your approval process.

Good luck.