Don’t forget the utilities when planning a new location

By Fawn Walker
Norwich Public Utilities

I recently sat in on a teleconference seminar hosted by the Community Economic Development Fund (CEDF) about the range of issues to consider before buying a commercial building. There was a lot of very helpful information provided on the financial aspects of the transaction but very little provided about the initial evaluation of a building prior to the decision to purchase. And not knowing the history of a building from the utility services perspective can be costly to a buyer.

Almost every day in my position at Norwich Public Utilities (NPU), I work with existing and prospective commercial and industrial buyers prior to a final purchase. It’s important that I work with them as soon into the process as possible to make sure they have fully assessed the building’s envelope from a utility point of view. For example, is the building up to code? Are the existing utility services adequate for the proposed use? Is the heating and cooling system adequate for the new use? Many times, a buyer will not even contact the utility company until they’ve leased or purchased a building, only to find out that there are significant utility upgrades that need to be done prior to energizing the building.

The City of Norwich building officials have a check list for building owners and developers that provides important information about specific building permits or code upgrades that may be required. There may be zoning issues that require code corrections or zone changes due to a proposed change of use for the building. The Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC) can also be a helpful resource for guidance and assistance with code corrections and financing.

NPU can provide a potential buyer information about the history of utility service in that particular building, any service upgrades that may be required for your specific use and deposits that must be paid for new services to be turned on. Or there may be utility work needed along or beneath the road that a potential buyer didn’t consider and may be responsible for.

Norwich Public Utilities works directly with new building owners and developers to provide estimated monthly utility costs based on projected load requirements for a new business use. It’s important to contact NPU early so that we can help you determine all the costs associated with owning or leasing a building. It’s just as important for a utility provider to know how a building will be used so that we can correctly determine the electric, natural gas, water and wastewater load requirements.

Most responsible realtors check into the utility services for their clients prior to the final sale, but some do not. Prospective building owners need to be aware of all potential costs associated with the purchase of a building including utility services upgrades, deposits for services, monthly estimated costs for services or sewer connection fees required.