What is C2 Zoning in NYC Commercial Real Estate?

By Published On: February 14, 20223.4 min read

In different cities, commercial zoning laws vary widely. Typically, they regulate factors like what types of activities a business or commercial property is allowed to conduct in a specific area, as well as the type of business that can occupy an area.

In New York, for example, there are eight different zoning districts, ranging from C1 zoning through C8. Each district allows for a different type or types of commercial property.

However, in some cities, C1, C2, and C3 zoning might represent something different than in other cities, so it’s important to check your own local zoning laws to understand what constitutes C2 zoning in your area. In general C2 allows for general commercial use, including retail and office. For the purposes of this article, we will use New York City zoning as an example.

What Is C2 Zoning?

C1 and C2 zones are similar in that they both allow for retail properties, but the difference lies in the type of retail properties permitted.

In New York, “C2 Districts were designed for a wider range of locations where retail continuity may be less important,” according to the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP).

The type of retail permitted in C2 zoning code includes establishments that are not regularly visited day-to-day, “such as funeral homes, movie theaters and repair services for bicycles, for example.”

What Does C2 Zoning Regulate?

Like C1 districts, C2 districts have specific regulations regarding building size and height, floor area ratios (FAR) and more. In C2 districts, according to the NYC zoning code, retail buildings are limited to 10,000 square feet per zoning lot.

C2 districts also permit residential and community facilities, just like C1 districts, and “in some limited conditions, hotels,” according to the DCP. For C2 buildings that are only used for commercial purposes, they are limited to a maximum of two stories or 30 feet in height, whichever is less. In buildings that are overlaid with residential spaces, commercial use is restricted to the first floor only, unless the building was built after 1970. In that scenario, commercial use is limited to the first two floors.

“C1 and C2 can be overlays,” said Paula Crespo, a Senior Planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development, “meaning it wouldn’t be purely commercial. It would be a situation where you have commercial on the ground floor, and residential on top.”

The DCP stipulates that the maximum floor area ratio for a C2 building in New York is 2.0.

How to Find Out What a C2 Means in Your Community

To find out what a C2 zone means in your community, you should visit the website of the city planning offices in your town. Usually, the zoning codes, guidelines and districts will be clearly listed on the site. Your city might even have a Zoning Handbook you can read through. For New York City, the definition for C2 zoning can be found in Chapter 4 of the Zoning Handbook.

If you need more information than what is publicly available online, your local zoning board or city planning department should have contact information listed on their website.

Example of a C2-Zoned Property in New York City

One example of a C2 property in New York City is a movie theater such as Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. It doesn’t fit into C1 zoning because it isn’t a business that someone visits day-to-day that only serves the needs of the local neighborhood, but it is considered a retail property and follows the C2 guidelines for New York.

C2 Zones in New York Regulate a Wide Range of Retail Properties

In New York City, C1 and C2 zones mostly have the same rules with regards to building size and floor area ratios, but the two categories are meant to differentiate between the specific types of retail properties that fall under them. C2 districts include a wider range of properties, not necessarily tailored to the local community. However, make sure to check the zoning categories in your city to see what C2 means for you.

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