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Drive-In Door on the 4th Floor? 🤔 (Repositioning Commercial Properties)

Updated: May 16

How we shop, where we work, what we value, and what we do during our free time have all come into play over the last two years. These trends have left some office buildings, big box stores, and shopping centers empty, but increased the need for industrial properties. All those shipping boxes and home deliveries are packaged somewhere! So, how do we repurpose existing structures to meet the needs of the market? If only we could put drive-in doors or docks to access the fourth floor of an office building!

Construction man working on building. Sparks flying.

Repositioning commercial properties has been heavy on my mind lately. Our current imbalance between office and retail with industrial has skewed the market. We have too much on one side, and not enough on the other. Repositioning could help solve the problem, if we could get zoning and cities to get on board. It’s a way to bring new life to empty buildings and struggling areas, while meeting market demands.

Here are my five considerations when your goal is to capitalize on demand imbalances and reposition properties:

1. Rethink the obvious. Work with a broker to help understand the nuances of our current market and rethink how things used to be. You may find a deal that’s not obvious to you, yet a great investment or the right fit. Options are not so perfect in this market. We need to open our eyes and find new ideas to make a space work. The “perfect layout” is no longer available––and may never be available for your deal––especially for industrial spaces under 20,000 SF. Building these is becoming cost prohibitive. An broker, who has experience in development, repositioning, and investing, can help you think creatively to rethink your approach.

2. Research the possibility. Feasibility studies require input from architects and engineers, market studies, and financial analysis. For small businesses, this is most likely cost prohibitive. But, depending on the location and value, a study might be the right move if demand is great. Including a broker in your research can help you decide if the move is worth it.

3. Rezone the property. Zoning (link blog) depends on local authorities. They may be hesitant to change a property’s zone, because of how it would impact tax revenue and the city budget. Be cautious and understand the difference between rezoning and a conditional use permit. Get with your broker to know the difference.

Construction man wearing a hard hat and safety glasses working with conduit

4. Reconfigure the structure. Converting an existing building to a new use can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The lack of a freight elevator or drive-in doors in a multi-floor office or retail building makes turning it into a much-needed industrial complex challenging. However, there are properties and buildings that would be suitable for this type of repositioning. Given today’s building material prices, it may be a more economical, as converting a structure relies more heavily on labor. Working with a broker can help you think creatively and let you know if such deals are possible.

5. Redevelop the site. Sometimes it’s cheaper to tear down, start from scratch, and redevelop from the ground up. Currently, we have an excess of office space, especially in the suburbs. Outdated buildings are at a disadvantage given the surplus of options. They are prime options to reposition through ground-up developing. Reach out to a broker to find those golden opportunities.


Ultimately, the decision on how to find your deal comes down to the existing property’s offerings versus its potential, future requirements, and available resources. Each deal is unique, and it’s important to think creatively. Consult with your experts in the CRE field. I’m here to help if you have any questions.

Smiling Jeff Salzbrun

Jeff Salzbrun is the owner and broker of Commercial Equities Group (CEG). As a veteran-owned real estate brokerage, CEG has been involved in thousands of sale and lease transactions, ranging from single offices to 250,000+ square foot buildings. At CEG, we get your deal done. We know space, and we know the CRE business.

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