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Retail/Mixed-Use/Façade Improvements

Benefits of Commercial Façade Renovations

Renovating the façade of a building can greatly improve its appearance and curb appeal. This is important for attracting tenants, creating a positive impression, and improving the brand image. With the high cost and lengthy timeline of ground-up and new construction projects, façade renovations are less costly and have minimal disturbance to existing occupants or business operations.

Façade renovations offer several advantages compared to new construction.

Energy Efficiency

Modernizing the façade and building envelope can improve energy efficiency. High-performance building envelopes and energy-efficient exterior materials help reduce heating and cooling costs, which is beneficial for the environment and the building owner's bottom line. It's important to emphasize the significance of façade and building envelope renovations and the recent changes in insulation requirements in the Ohio Building Code (OBC), as Ohio’s codes are scheduled to change on March 1, 2024. The revised requirements will impact the energy efficiency and overall performance of buildings. One example is the roof insulation requirements. The code requires commercial buildings to have better insulation above the metal roof deck with an increase from R-20 to R-30. This is a significant change because it will require an additional 1.6 inches of rigid insulation. This increase aims to enhance the thermal performance of the roof, reducing heat loss and improving energy efficiency. Similarly, the increase in residential attic insulation requirements from R-38 to R-49 also underscores the importance of energy efficiency. Better attic insulation helps maintain a more consistent indoor temperature and reduces the demand for heating and cooling systems, thus saving energy and reducing utility costs.

Competitive Advantage

In a competitive rental market, a well-maintained and energy-efficient building can stand out among older facilities, attracting more tenants and potentially allowing for higher rental rates.  Incorporating new technologies, better lighting, and upscale signage can lead to a better customer experience. Property values can be improved by updating the building’s exterior materials while preserving the original framework. Other elements that can improve property values include site, parking lot, and landscape design.

Better Brand Image

The façade of your building is the first thing that people see and can serve as an advertisement for your organization and its products and services. According to ServiceChannel’s State of Brick & Mortar Retail Report, 64 percent of consumers say they have chosen not to buy from a business because of its poor physical appearance.

Updating a building façade projects a better image, making your organization a more professional and appealing place to do business. A new façade increases brand recognition for clients as well as employees, which helps with recruitment efforts.

Minimal Business Interruptions

When it comes to commercial construction, time is money. Your tenants will appreciate the advanced notice before you perform exterior upgrades. As some business interruption is inevitable when changes are being made to a commercial facility, renovations to the façade cause far less disruption than more intensive building projects.

Enticing Incentives

To assist with reducing the expense associated with outside façade modifications, your city may provide incentives. Many municipalities do, as they want local consumers and businesses to be encouraged to improve their streetscape by encouraging walking or shopping locally which benefits landlords, small business owners, and even the community's economy.

BetterBuildings Northwest Ohio (BBNWO) offers competitive fixed-rate Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for projects that focus on conserving energy and generating savings through energy-efficient retrofits to new and existing facilities. Eligible energy-efficient improvements to new and existing buildings can be financed through PACE and repaid via a special assessment of the facility. Eligible upgrades include lighting and building controls, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), boilers and chillers, building envelope, and more.

Overall, façade improvements, tenant fit-outs, and mechanical/electrical upgrades combine energy efficiency, enhanced curb appeal, and minimal business interruptions. These projects provide economically viable solutions, create safer and more durable façades, and enhance the visual impact of a community.

Funding Resources and Grants

  1. JobsOhio Vibrant Community Grant - The Vibrant Communities Program offers competitive grants of up to $1 million for development projects that help transform areas within a distressed community. Office, Retail, Restaurant, Coworking/Incubator/Innovation Spaces, University/College/Training, or similar education-related may be eligible. Please review the JobsOhio Vibrant Communities Program Grant Funding Guidelines to determine if your project qualifies.
  2. Downtown Building Improvement Grant - Up to $250,000 is available per round of funding. The program requires a commitment and match from the local building owners to complete improvements to their business. Up to three buildings may be included in the application. Would you like yours to be one? Please review the Public Notice for more details.

    Eligible Projects: Structural improvements, roof repair/replacement, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and façade improvements are all eligible activities.
  3. The Facade Improvement Grant - Was available through The City of Toledo (among others) but the application is currently closed. The city anticipates that the program will re-open in 2024, pending Toledo City Council approval. The Façade Grant program was established by the Department of City Development to enhance the physical appearance of commercial corridors by providing financial assistance for exterior building enhancements to eligible property owners and lessees. Applicant's total project cost must exceed $2,000 for eligibility. Routine maintenance and repairs are not eligible. This program provides up to 80% in reimbursements for eligible costs.

  4. Retail Investment Fund - The Retail Investment Fund (RIF) Program assists retail development projects by providing grants to businesses in commercial districts that create jobs. Home-based businesses do not qualify. The size of the RIF grant is determined by the number of jobs created and the amount of private investment, among other factors. Only eligible, pre-approved grant-related expenses will be reimbursed to the grantee. Following approval of the application, RIF funds may be used for the activities below:

    • Architecture and Engineering (A&E) costs
    • Purchase of furniture, fixtures, and equipment
    • Start-up inventory
    • Build out and remodel
  5. White Box Grant - The White Box Program is designed to provide targeted financial incentives to increase the vitality of the neighborhood commercial corridors. The funds will assist in recruiting new businesses to vacant commercial/retail tenant spaces in commercial buildings. This incentive will offer reimbursable grant funds up to $25,000. The White Box Grant may be used on certain expenditures to prepare a vacant commercial space for tenancy. Eligible expenses typically include base improvements such as flooring, ceiling, rough carpentry, drywall, plumbing, electric, and HVAC.
  6. BetterBuildings Northwest Ohio PACE Financing - BetterBuildings Northwest Ohio (BBNWO) offers competitive fixed-rate Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for projects that focus on conserving energy and generating savings through energy efficiency retrofits to new and existing facilities. Eligible for new and existing buildings including industrial/manufacturing, commercial/retail, government/municipal, educational, healthcare, residential, and multi-family units. Eligible upgrades include lighting and building controls, HVAC, boilers and chillers, electrical distribution, power generation, and more. Please review the Lucas County Port Authority for more details. 

*Talk with your local government or economic development officials to determine what funding is still available and if your project is eligible. 

Key areas an architect/ engineer should be engaged to support commercial design

Site design or circulation for the building

Structural integrity

Façade improvements

Tenant Fit-outs

Electrical or mechanical upgrades

Building “change of use”

Building code compliance

Energy assessments or building envelope audits

The JDI Group can help with site, architectural, interior, and engineering design for Commercial Properties

Office - from single-tenant buildings to large corporate campuses

Retail - ranging from freestanding stores to multiple small shops in strip malls 

Industrial - properties including warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities

Multifamily - properties are often designed for multi-use purposes including retail, office, or restaurants

Hotel - including various types of lodging establishments, of which site design is a crucial component that developers require local support

Special Purpose - properties including healthcare facilities, educational institutions, churches, and entertainment venues

Project Experience

City of Sidney

Sidney, OH
The city invested in building improvements (including a new roof in 2020 and repairs to fill in concrete cavities that existed between the underground/basement level and the adjacent sidewalks) and wanted to market the building to potential developers for new retail and residential usage.
The city requested architectural assistance from JDI to complete a feasibility study and generate a report including one to three renderings which will be used to better market the building. The renderings included multi-family living, office space, and retail space.

JDI visited the field to verify the existing conditions, take photographs, evaluate the existing structure against previous reports, and evaluate the systems and utilities. Once the fit/usage of the space was discussed and a preferred path was determined by the city, we provided a rough order of magnitude cost estimate for renovations.

River Rock Property Group

Toledo, OH
The JDI Group worked as part of a design/build team with Miller Diversified for this 18,000 SF retail center. JDI provided support for the center holding two retail tenants, including “white box” design. .

JDI provided architectural, structural, and MEP engineering services to create permit and construction documents. Building code review, floor plans & elevations, as well as Life Safety plans, were provided. JDI is also providing Emergency Responder Radio Testing services to coordinate with officials regarding radio frequencies and equipment use.