For a retailer, the allure of a historic building is obvious: A renovated historic space conveys a unique degree of character and a memorable and defining sense of place. It can help a brand or business stand out in a crowded and competitive retail marketplace and deliver that all-important experiential element.

It is no surprise that the trend of opening retail spaces in historic buildings is booming and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With urban redevelopment picking up steam in many cities across the country, and vibrant mixed-use urban communities becoming an increasingly familiar feature on civic landscapes, opportunities for repurposing, renovating and reimagining historic spaces for contemporary retail use are abundant and in high demand. They present an appealing option to retailers looking for great space in dynamic and growing markets.


For all of the advantages that come with space in an historic building, there are plenty of challenges, as well.

From design and functionality, to safety and technical issues, to coding and regulatory limitations, a historic space may require a number of expensive and/or time-consuming steps and solutions that can lead to delays, have an aesthetic impact, and potentially affect the utility of the space.

Understanding the scope and scale of some of these challenges – as well as the strategies and best practices retailers can use to accommodate or overcome the most common obstacles associated with occupying space in a historic building – is an important first step for any retail decision-maker considering such a move.


One of the most common challenges a retailer is likely to face when selecting a location in a historic building is adapting and working within the design and operational limitations that may be in place.

Many retailers (particularly established national chains) have developed their own criteria and brand standards for what their space is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to operate. Those standards may include everything from the way they stage their merchandise to the overall look and feel of the facility. This might sound like a minor issue, but it can present a significant challenge when retailer standards and practices butt up against historic and potentially limiting rules and regulations.

If a brand or a business is used to doing things a certain way, it can be tough to accept that it simply isn’t possible to continue doing so in a new space. The open ductwork and exposed brick that are so popular in many stores today may simply not be possible in a historic building, both…