When people throw the word "commercial" around, do you stop to ask just what that means? You know it does not mean that people live in the building...or does it? Commercial buildings are covered by a very broad definition. Here is what defines a building as a commercial building, in order to clarify what that really means.
Commercial Buildings Produce Revenue
Commercial buildings include any sort of business that creates revenue for its owner or renter. This includes retail stores, boutique stores, grocery stores, legal and medical practices, office buildings, and yes, even multi-unit apartment complexes and duplex properties. If the property owner or business owner who rents the property do so for the purpose of making money, it is a commercial property. Therefore, the building(s) on it are also commercial buildings.
The Property on Which the Building Sits Is Zoned for Commercial Use Only
City zoning laws determine which properties may be used for commercial purposes and which ones can be used for residential purposes. If the property is "commercial zoning only," it means that only commercial buildings can be erected on it or the buildings present may only be used for business. In this case, residential complexes with two or more units do not qualify, but everything else does.
The Buildings Are Restricted by Their Commercial Building Codes
Additionally, buildings and structures of all types are required to be inspected before humans cross the threshold on a regular basis. There are very different building codes for commercial properties, as well as residential properties. When a building is listed as "commercial," and you remodel it, it has to adhere to the commercial building codes. Otherwise, the building inspector will fail the building and you will not be able to open your doors to the public until the building is brought up to city code laws.
The Building May Be Located in a Residential, but NOT Industrial, Zone
Commercial buildings do not produce products which may be toxic to their surroundings. Industrial buildings can, within the boundaries of the law, produce waste products while involved in production of other goods. These two types of buildings and properties generally are not allowed to sit side by side, and with good reason.
Would you want to buy groceries from a store that is parked next to a pesticides production plant? The typical answer is, probably not. The health risks are too great. You can park a commercial building next to several houses, but not next to industrial plants.