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Updating your storefront? Make sure it meets zoning codes.

In today's world, looks are everything -- especially for a growing business. Everything from your website design to your business cards helps you establish a brand identity that tells your potential customers who you are. In fact, the way your actual brick-and-mortar business looks plays a role in this, too.

When someone walks by your storefront, the façade is their first impression of your business. You only have a few seconds to grab someone's attention and hold it, so it is important to make a statement that will engage and attract passersby. Not only that, but a well-designed façade can also reinforce a strong reputation with your existing customers.

With so much riding on the way your storefront looks, do not throw it all away by designing a façade that is not in line with zoning codes.

There are rules for building facades?

Yes. In fact, there are numerous rules about how a building façade can look and how changes can be implemented. For example, architectural details must be preserved and not covered by signs, and if you use awnings, you must use the right type of awning.

Who will review my plans?

In the city of Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) will handle the review of your new façade if your business is located in an area that requires reviews of such projects. If you are going through an appeal after a variance you requested was denied, the Zoning Board of Appeals will also take a look before the BRA does.

For businesses in the communities surrounding Boston, the rules may differ. Your lawyer can help you better understand how project reviews work in your specific community.

What is the review board looking for?

Members of the design review board will be assessing your project to determine how it will impact the surrounding neighborhood. Will it improve the neighborhood or create an issue for neighbors? Does it fit with the current character of the area?

The board will also consider whether your façade update will cause problems for neighboring or adjoining buildings, and whether your proposed plan is the best way to achieve the desired outcome.

The review board will also closely inspect your design, considering numerous components, including:

  • How welcoming the storefront is
  • That signage is properly placed, uses proper materials and doesn't overpower the building
  • Whether architectural details have been preserved
  • Whether the façade and front door utilize glass panels for better visibility

What information do you have to provide to the BRA?

Of course, in order to assess your design, the redevelopment authority will need to see it. They will be looking for drawings or renderings that accurately depict your proposed design and make clear the changes that you would like to be made.

Reviewers will also want to know what materials you plan to use as well as color schemes and other details about the update.

Updating your storefront is an important part of ensuring your business continues to grow and stay relevant in a changing market. Making sure your design adheres to local zoning laws can help you stick to your timeline and ultimately save you money by preventing the need for major revisions.

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