Locating and Setting Up Your Business
There are many factors you need to consider before you choose the location for your business. You may need to understand, among other things, if your success will depend on vehicle or pedestrian traffic and easy access, where your competitors are located, and if the property you are considering is properly zoned for your business activity. If your business is retail or service oriented, understanding the market demographics of the area can also be important. The resources on this page are intended to serve as a tool to help you begin to understand how to make a decision about where to locate your business. The information contained here is not intended to be all inclusive; you should examine all aspects of the site you are considering and do your proper due diligence before making any decisions, signing a lease, or buying property.
Zoning, Building Standards & Land Use
Zoning, building standards and land use issues can be very complex. Understanding all of the legal issues surrounding the use of land and buildings is critical before you sign a lease or purchase a building. Failure to do so can lead to expensive mistakes that can put your business at serious risk The information provided here will help you begin to understand the types of questions you need to be asking yourself, your real estate broker or leasing agent, your landlord, as well as local city and county staff. Helpful Hint: It is highly recommended that you consult with a professional broker, agent, architect or engineer that is familiar with local regulations, and especially if you plan to occupy an existing building.
Are you operating your business from your home?
If you reside in Charlotte, a Customary Home Occupation Permit is required to operate a business from your home. Download the “home based business” brochure for more information.
Are you operating your business in a Mecklenburg County town outside of Charlotte city limits?
For other towns in Mecklenburg County, contact the North or South offices of Land Use and Environmental Services.
Is the site within an urban district?
Special urban districts exist in the Charlotte city limits, such as UMUD, MUDD, TOD, PED and TS. If your property is located in an urban district you may be required to undertake additional improvements to your site before you can begin operating your business. Reviewing the Charlotte Zoning Ordinance will help you identify requirements for special districts. If you are in an urban district and are required to make improvements to your site, you must attend a conceptual meeting prior to plan submittal.
How is the property zoned?
Every parcel in Charlotte has a zoning designation that determines what the property can be used for. Learn the existing zoning of your property and much more by visiting the Virtual Charlotte mapping application.
What uses are allowed within the guidelines of Charlotte’s zoning code?
Once you know how the property is zoned, reviewing the Charlotte Zoning Ordinance will help you identify what uses are allowed.
NOTE: Sometimes knowing the zoning of a property is not enough. You should also always know, among other things, the last known use of the property and, if the existing building is currently vacant, how long it has been vacant. Knowing this will help you identify what, if any, improvements you may be required to make before you can open your business. For existing buildings located within the Charlotte city limits, the Charlotte Fire Prevention Bureau may have records on last known occupancy and use.
Will you be required to make improvements to bring the facility up to code?
Contact CTAC to discuss your project and learn if you will be required to make improvements to the building and site you are considering. Be prepared to discuss the details of your project and have available, among other things, your property address, what the previous use of the property was, whether or not the building is vacant and, if so, for how long, and what you propose to use the property for. For most improvements you will be required to have a building permit before doing any work. In Charlotte, projects requiring site improvements such as parking, driveways and landscaping should contact Charlotte’s Land Development staff at 704-336-6692.
Businesses may be required to make ADA improvements to their building and site including, among other things, providing ADA parking and accessibility ramps, adding ADA bathroom facilities, widening doorways to be ADA compatible, etc. Knowing if you will be required to make such improvements will help you identify what your total project costs will be and how much time and energy your project will require. Contact CTAC to discuss your project and learn if you will be required to make improvements. Also explore federal tax incentives for making ADA improvements.
Can you put up a sign?
A permit is required for all signs in Charlotte. To apply for a sign permit visit the Hal Marshal Building at 700 North Tryon Street or contact 704-336-7600. Learn more about Charlotte’s sign guidelines in the Zoning ordinance.
MARKET AND DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, through its on-line business resource, has compiled useful links to help with all of your market research needs including economic conditions, industry research, demographics and marketing.
Reference USA provides business and consumer research, providing tools for business owners & entrepreneurs to conduct market research, select a location and do a radius search to look up competitors, check the strength of competition and look for businesses to buy or connect with.
AccessNC allows you to search property details and map out locations in addition to getting drive-time and distance reports related to demographic information such as workforce, population and businesses.
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce makes demographic and economic profiles of the region available on their website.
The Charlotte Regional Partnership offers comprehensive demographic information for the 16 county Charlotte region.
This guide is intended to assist you with your research as you perform an analysis of your business industry.
ONLINE REAL ESTATE SEARCH TOOLS
In order to promote efficient and quality location decisions, Site One is a demographics driven GIS mapping tool that can be used to conduct a radius search for demographics and business locations, plot industry sectors by type, and more.
Interactive mapping program that allows users to search for available commercial buildings and sites as well as generate site-specific demographic and business analysis reports.
Find property zoning, real estate tax values, fire and police districts, voting districts, eligibility for financial incentive programs and much more.
Search properties by parcel or address to obtain ownership, sales and tax information.
The City of Charlotte offers programs to assist business and property owners with the costs of improving buildings and sites in targeted areas, including staff that can help with finding available space.
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Economic Development staff provides business relocation and expansion services and can assist with overcoming issues that challenge your business in Charlotte. The Chamber also provides extensive market and demographic information to help you find the right location for your business.
The Institute for Entrepreneurship at CPCC offers courses and seminars on many business topics, including how to consider whether to lease or purchase and other relevant factors you should be considering when negotiating the terms of your lease or purchase.
Location is about more than just choosing a building. Learn what else you need to be aware of when selecting a location for your business.
Before you begin scouting a location, consider a few of the factors that can help you select the right location for your business.
Leasing a commercial office space is one of the largest expenses made by new and expanding businesses. Learn more about what you need to know about commercial leases.
ZoomProspector speeds up and simplifies the process of site selection analysis so that companies can quickly identify the optimal location for their business start-up, expansion or relocation.
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