What Is C1 Zoning in Commercial Real Estate?

By Senior WriterPublished On: February 10, 20223.8 min read

Commercial districts are zoned for a variety of uses, with different rules that apply to specific areas. In New York, there are currently eight different usage types for commercial districts, ranging from C1 through C8, with a few zoning exceptions in each.

Sometimes, one commercial zoning group might even be categorized into more specific groupings, and other times new types of businesses will come up that don’t necessarily fit neatly into any one grouping. And of course, there are some businesses that require special permission, conditional use permits, or other zoning permits from your local city planning committee.

In different cities, C1 zoning might have different commercial uses, so it’s important to note that the definition of C1 zoning discussed below is specific to New York City. However, in a city like Fayetteville, North Carolina, for instance, the definition of C1 represents a different type of commercial regulation.

What Is C1 Zoning?

C1 zoning districts are meant to serve “local shopping needs,” said the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP). These districts “permit a variety of retail stores and personal service establishments, such as grocery stores, restaurants, hair salons, drug stores and small clothing stores,” added the DCP.

According to Paula Crespo, a Senior Planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, C1 districts are meant for businesses that are “very locally serving,” like “dry cleaners and bodegas,” in which people are not traveling from very far outside the neighborhood.

Some C1 districts, depending on your specific municipality, also allow for hotels.

There are also certain restrictions and regulations on the businesses allowed in C1 zones, which may also vary depending on your city, like building height and floor area.

In New York, C1 buildings that only contain commercial uses cannot be higher than two stories tall or 30 feet in height — whichever is less, said the DCP. In addition, in buildings that have residencies or community facilities in them as well as commercial facilities, commercial use is restricted to the ground floor. But in buildings constructed after 1970, commercial use is also permitted on the second floor.

C1 zones also have floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions. The specific number varies by district, of course, but for C1 zones, the FAR is usually low.

C1 zones tend to be located next to residential neighborhoods, and regulations on building height and floor area are to ensure that the small retail businesses that lease these commercial buildings serve the surrounding neighborhood.

How to Find the Exact Definition of C1 Zoning in Your District

To find the exact definition of C1 zoning in your district, you can head to the website of the city planning offices in your city or town. On New York’s Department of City Planning site, for example, they have a Zoning Handbook, and the definition for C1 zoning can be found in Chapter 4.

“The zoning handbook does a really good job of breaking it down,” said Crespo.

Other cities generally have the zoning rules outlined either directly on the website, or in a similar handbook that can be found on their website. You can also reach out directly with any Department of City Planning contacts to ask for more information.

Can You Live in C1 Zoning?

Yes, you can live in C1 zoning. In addition to locally-serving commercial businesses, C1 districts also allow for the “full range of residential and community facility uses” said the DCP.

Keep in mind that a bank or credit union may be reluctant to lend to you if you plan to live in your business. Hard money lenders and debt funds are more flexible. Connect with a commercial mortgage broker to be introduced to a vast network of lenders who could be right for you.

Example of a C1 Zoned Property in New York City

One example of a C1 zoned property is a local laundromat. Laundromats serve the needs of the local community, and they don’t have customers coming from afar to use their services. Rather, their customer base is limited to a few surrounding blocks.

C1 Zoning in NYC Serves the Needs of the Local Community

While C1 zoning definitions vary from city to city, in New York, C1 zoned buildings are smaller retail properties meant to serve the local community. Often, they are overlaid with residential properties as well, with specific rules regarding size and use. However, be sure to check your local zoning laws to see what C1 means for your district. Learn about C2 zoning and C3 zoning to make sure your bases are covered.

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