Can Commercial Buildings Be Used as a Residence?

Published Categorized as Infrastructure
Mixed-use Retail

Commercial buildings are buildings where people lease spaces to carry out various income-generating activities (businesses). For example, a building with retail stores, offices, restaurants, beauty parlors, a supermarket, etc., is a commercial building. So, can commercial buildings be used as a residence?

Commercial buildings can be used as residences if the municipal zoning laws of the area allow them. When this happens, such buildings fall in the category of mixed-use buildings. In these developments, the businesses occupy the lower floors of the building, and the residential dwellings occupy the upper parts of the building.

This article will discuss whether commercial buildings can be used as a residence. I will also explain the different types of mixed-use buildings, why they are becoming popular, and give you examples of commercial buildings used as residences.

Instances When Commercial Buildings Can Be Used as a Residence

Every city and municipality has zoning laws that determine land use. The rules define what kind of buildings developers can construct in the various town and municipal zones, among other things. Suppose the zoning laws allow the construction of mixed-use buildings in an area of the city; in that case, people can use commercial buildings as residences.

Types of Mixed-use Buildings

As stated earlier, a mixed-use building is a hybrid of commercial and residential development. Therefore, some tenants are business owners, while others are home dwellers; the residential area is usually more extensive than the commercial area. The residential units are generally on the upper floors to give residents peace.

There are different types of mixed-use buildings; the building’s design, use, and location determine the type. Below are the common types of mixed-use buildings.

‘Main Street’ Mixed-Use Buildings

These are two or three-story buildings where the business units are on the ground floor; the residential units occupy the upper floors. This model also provides parking for the occupants and the customers. The name ‘Main Street’ came about because the business units face the street so that customers can walk right in.

Vertical Mixed-Use Buildings

These developments are single buildings with many stories, with each floor having a different purpose. For instance, the ground floor could house retail shops, offices are on the first floor, and the floors above are for residential units. Most of these buildings also have a public space, such as a gym and swimming pool, where the building users can interact.

Some of the larger complexes have basements for various uses. For instance, they could provide basement parking for the occupants and the customers. You can also find entertainment and recreational places such as nightclubs, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, and gyms in the basements.

Live + Work Mixed-Use Buildings

This model houses residents living and operating small businesses in the same building. The living units are usually behind, on the sides, or above the business spaces. One of the reasons why some people love this arrangement is because they can operate their businesses till late without worrying about how they will get home.

For example, a photographer may have a studio on the ground floor and live on the backside of the building or the upper floor. Such businesses can maximize their profits by giving them the opportunity to work flexible hours.

Why Use of Commercial Buildings as Residences Has Increased

More and more people have used commercial buildings as a residence in recent years, and the trend is still growing. Below are some reasons for the increase in demand for mixed-use buildings:

They Offer Convenience

The location of most of these buildings is in central areas that are near:

  • Parks
  • Public transportation
  • Libraries
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • etc.

Some people prefer to stay in a place where they can access facilities without traveling for miles. They also like the vibrant social life such developments offer.

The Commute to Work Is Shorter

Today, some people prefer to live near their workplaces to walk to work and back home. This arrangement helps them keep fit and avoid the hustle and bustle of driving or using public transport to and from work. They also keep off the stress of looking for parking slots and the cost involved.

There Are Savings on Transport Costs

If a person lives in a mixed-use building and works in the same building or nearby, they can save on transport costs. In addition, they don’t have to incur any travel costs to access goods and services as everything is available at their doorstep. The savings help them pay the higher rent for the mixed-use residence comfortably.

Examples of Commercial Buildings Used as a Residence

Numerous commercial buildings are used as residences worldwide as mixed-use buildings increase in number and popularity. Below are two examples of famous mixed-use buildings.

900 North Michigan Avenue Building, Chicago

900 North Michigan is a vertical mixed-use building; it has 68 stories and is the 9th tallest building in Chicago. There are 106 condominiums on floors 48 to 66 and other condos on floors 21 to 28. The other floors have a shopping mall, a famous hotel, offices, etc., and there’s also a 12-story parking garage.

Mirvish Village, Toronto, Canada

Mirvish Village is a fantastic mixed-use development with almost 900 residential units to suit all kinds of budgets. It has a retail alley where residents and customers can buy everything and anything. There’s also a bike club, daycare, public park, etc.; it’s a place where people celebrate community, multiculturalism, and entrepreneurship.


The use of commercial buildings as a residence is not a new concept. Today, mixed-use buildings have increased as the demand for housing in urban centers grows. The increase in demand is mainly because this model enables residents to live their lives within one place.

Due to the high demand, governments, urban planners, and architects have no option but to create new housing solutions that include mixed-use buildings. It looks like the use of commercial buildings as a residence in the form of mixed-use buildings will be the future of most cities worldwide.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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