NOTE: Do not sign a lease until you've checked with the city to make sure the building can be used for your type of business.
What is Zoning?
Zoning is a set of land use regulations that set forth limits related to how property can be utilized with respect to use, density, height, and open space, among other elements. New York State’s zoning enabling statutes give cities, towns, and villages the power to enact local zoning laws. The City of Syracuse has 31 zoning districts, which each have their own set of regulations.
How is property zoned?
Zoning districts within the City of Syracuse have been established for various land uses such as Residential, Office, Local Business, Commercial, and Industrial. The Zoning Atlas illustrates the particular zoning districts, and provides a link to the zoning regulations that apply specifically to that district. Historic and architecturally significant properties are also identified on the zoning atlas as overlays to the established zoning districts.
When do I need zoning approval?
Commercial construction and renovation projects usually trigger some form of zoning approval, and certain residential projects may as well. The review depends on the proposed use of the property and any alterations that may be involved in the project. Residential zoning districts permit less intense uses, such as a home-based business with no employees, while other zoning districts permit more intense uses such as retail or light industrial establishments. Some reviews involve public hearings or referral to other applicable departments.
Other reasons to pick a business site
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and similar organizations, like the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, serve certain areas of the city. They coordinate a variety of services and activities to help businesses in their areas. The city requires property owners in these areas to pay an additional amount on their property taxes, called a special assessment. The city collects these fees and passes them on to the BIDS. In return, BIDs provide services like hosting local events, representing business needs to the city, and other business support services.
You may hear a commercial real estate agent talk about "retail mix". Put simply, this means the types of businesses in a given area. You don't want to be too close to other businesses that sell the same merchandise or services, but you do want to be near businesses with certain similarities. The Small Business Administration is a good source of information about retail mix and other marketing terms.
Tax exemptions are a way for the City to encourage people to invest in property by forgiving some or all of their tax bill. Syracuse has 3 tax exemptions for commercial real estate:
Residential – Commercial Urban Exemption 485-a
This is a 12 year partial exemption for non-residential property converted to a mix of residential and commercial uses. Cost of the conversion must be at least $10,000.
The exemption applies to the increase in assessment due to the eligible conversion.
- 100% of the increase is exempted for 8 years,
- 80% of the increase is exempted for the 9th year,
- 60% of the increase is exempted in the 10th year,
- 40% of the increase is exempted in the 11th year,
- 20% of the increase is exempted in the 12th year,
Business Improvement Exemption 485-b
This is a 10 year partial exemption for renovations on commercial property. The renovation cost must be at least $10,000.
- 50% of the assessment increase due to the renovations is exempted in the first year,
- 45% in the 2nd year,
- 40% in the 3rd year,
- Decreasing 5% (of the increase) each year until fully taxable in the 11th year.
Historic Property Tax Exemption 444-a
This 10 year exemption is for rehabilitation of locally designated historic property. The alteration or rehabilitation must be approved by the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board prior to commencement. 100 percent of the assessment increase due to the rehab is exempted for the first 5 years, then the increase is phased in 20% per year. This exemption only applies to City and School property taxes.
For more information, contact the Assessment Department.