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The Milrose Guide to Permitting in Chicago

When visiting Chicago, it is easy to admire the diverse design of the city. On one street you are caught gazing upon the old Victorian homes that date back to the 1800s, only to turn right and be graced with a modern development with a contemporary style. In a jurisdiction that prides itself on its community and layout, there is no wonder why businesses scramble to acquire space within the ‘Windy City’.Before 2015, the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings (DOB) was notorious for slow review times and red tape. With the help of a newly appointed Commissioner, the city has made huge strides to improve the permitting process for its citizens.

On average, it takes about 70 days for a permit to be reviewed and approved, depending on your methods and if you have hired an expediter or not. This can seem overwhelming, but with the right due diligence and strategy, it can be guaranteed that your permit will be approved efficiently and without delay. So, let us get into the various ways that you can receive a Building Permit in Chicago.

What you should do before you apply:

Receiving a building permit is required for most construction projects, especially if they are for a business or commercial use. According to Chicago’s Department of Buildings, “The building permit process is designed to ensure buildings comply with minimum standards of safety established by the Chicago Building Code for the protection of building occupants. With a building permit, you or your contracts will get advice from reviewers and inspectors to ensure these standards are met in your project.”

Before showing up to City Hall and asking for a permit, you should come prepared and make sure you have already completed the following steps:

  • Fix Any Violations: in your plan, if you notice you have any building code violations, bring in verification that the violations have been or will be resolved. This can mean bringing in a copy of the building permit obtained to correct said violations or including a scope of work in your plans that will fix the violations.
  • Stop Work Orders: These must be resolved before any new permits are approved.
  • Pay Any Outstanding City Debt: Before applying for a permit, make sure that you have paid any outstanding debt to the city. No permits will be approved or issued until these debts are paid.
  • Doublecheck if you need zoning approval: In most cases a project will require zoning approval during the permitting process. In Chicago, the Zoning Ordinance Administration will provide a staff member to help research if your project needs zoning approval and/or is a subject to landmark approval. You can also use their help to review plans, resolve issues, and authorize the zoning approval. Depending on your scope of work, you may need apply for a zoning exception, variance, or adjustment which can lengthen the overall time to acquire a building permit.
Different Types of Permit ReviewsNATIONAL RETAIL

1. Easy Permit
  • Easy Permit program is a “streamline process for small and simple building improvements”.
  • If your project is one that requires repair and replacing elements, remember that it does not need an architectural plan.
  • The Easy Permit program is available in Chicago’s City Hall office in Room 900 (as of June 2021). In most cases, the program only requires one visit and permits are approved same day.
  • Prior to arriving to City Hall, remember to have all your application forms filled out and ready, plus any additional documents that may be needed.
  • Applications may be available to submit online and it’s recommended to check if that is an option for your project.
2. Standard Plan Review
  • This is the most common type of plan review for Chicago Building Permits. It is typically for small to mid-sized new construction and renovation projects for buildings up to 80 feet high and commercial properties under 150,000 square feet.
  • Standard Plan Review applications are available online and submitted/reviewed through the City’s electronic plan review system. Each project is assigned a Project Manager to facilitate technical plan reviews, ensure plan compliance, and issue permits.
  • The architect or expeditor must complete the permit application online and upload plans electronically to E-Plan.
  • Property owners should ensure their contact information is included in the application for notification purposes.
  • If any regulatory or technical reviews are needed, then your Project Manager will reach out to help guide you through that process.
  • In the case of corrections, the applicant of record will be notified and may resubmit any corrected plans online 24/7.
  • The applicant will be notified when review is complete, and permit is issued via email.
3. Self-Certification
  • A streamlined review process allowing Illinois-licensed architects and structural engineers who have completed a special training course, and are registered within the department, to certify the project complies with the Chicago Building Code and other Municipal Codes.
  • Available for small to midsized commercial projects meeting eligibility criteria.
4. Developer Services
  • The Developer Services process is designed to meet the permit review and approval needs of large and highly complex new construction or renovation projects, such as high-rise buildings over 80 feet high, large or open-air assembly, institutional or mercantile buildings over 150,000 square feet, technology centers, projects with green technology, and foundations 12 feet or deeper.
    • To apply for the Developer Services process, applicants must reserve an appointment in the City Hall office, room 900 (as of June 2021) and speak with a Project Manager there. Appointments may be requested online through their website.
    • At the meeting, a Project Administrator will give applicant an outline of the coordinated review process, a checklist of all required documents and plans and the estimated timeline for issuing the permit.
    • The Project Administrator will be your single point of contact to manage the entire permit review process within the Department.
    • Plan reviews are performed by the city’s third-party review design firms. This review is an additional cost to building permit fees.Click here to subscribe to our newsletter!
What will you need to apply for a permit?

                                        1. Permit Application signed by property owner.
                                        2. Architectural plans or drawings, if needed.
                                        3. Details of work to be done.
                                        4. Estimated cost of the project.
                                        5. Square footage of the area of work
                                        6. Property Survey
                                        7. Notarized Certification of Responsibility (not for condominiums, more than 6 units or commercial buildings)
                                        8. Other documentation, if applicable: copies of signed contracts between owner and contractor, zoning approval documentation, original electrical application from contractor, photos, etc.

How much will my permit cost?

The City of Chicago allows citizens to estimate the cost of getting a building permit based on the current Chicago Building Code. The city currently factors in construction type, occupancy type, area in square feet, and project scope to determine the cost of your building permit.

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Next Steps

Now that you have the information in front of you, the process may seem daunting to people unfamiliar with the local permitting process. Luckily, Milrose Consultants and Permit Advisors have experience working and building strong relationships in jurisdictions throughout the country. Together, we have the expertise and manpower to properly strategize your next project to ensure that all permits are issued on-time and on-budget.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our nationwide services.