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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300


1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

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Commercial Alterations - Tenant Improvements

This page contains information for any project that alters a commercial building without any increase in floor area (out or up), without structural changes and includes only minor changes to the exterior.

Getting Started

A building permit is required for alterations in commercial and multifamily buildings, even when no structural changes are made.

If your project includes increasing the footprint of the structure or altering any exterior feature beyond same size replacement of doors and windows, view commercial new construction

Change of Use or Occupancy
For an overview of requirements for projects that change the use of a space or building, see our Change of Occupancy Brochure and Change of Use or Occupancy information page. Depending on the complexity of the project, a life-safety summary may be needed. This is similar to a code summary, but has more detail about sprinkler, fire alarms, detection systems and other construction information about the building. Visit Plan Review staff at the Development Services Centeror call (503) 823-1456 for life-safety summary information.

If your project includes work that would change the occupancy or use of an existing building, visit Building staff and Planning and Zoning staff at the Development Services Center before you prepare your materials and plans.

Codes in effect in Portland include City Codes, such as Titles 24 and 33, as well as State building codes. See our Codes page for more information.

Find out how to research your property and where to locate the information in preparation for your permit application.

Determine what your fees will be.

Determine what the system development charges will be for your project.

Early Assistance:
The bureau offers four early assistance levels for commercial customers.

The City also recognizes that some projects need special assistance due to the complexity of the project. These projects may be assigned a City development liaison to assist the developer and the development team through all phases of the project from early assistance, city review, construction and final occupancy. Visit staff at the Development Services Center to discuss whether a development liaison is appropriate for your project.

Applying For My Permit

The following information must be submitted when applying for this permit type. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide additional information.

To submit for a permit, bring the completed building permit application and commercial system development charge form, required plans, additional materials and intake fees to the Development Services Center.

Separate Plumbing, Electrical, and Mechanical permits are required for alterations to those systems. Sub-contractors performing this work must be registered with the State of Oregon and carry a current CCB license.


Code Summary
Applications must show how they comply with the building code. A code summary is critical to convey design assumptions made for the building. Please see the Building Code Summary Worksheet

Change of Occupancy
Projects that change the occupancy of the existing space can be very complex. Please see both our Brochure on Change of Occupancy and additional information on this type of project.

Life Safety Summary
For very complex projects, a life-safety summary may be needed. This is similar to a code summary, but has more detail about sprinkler, fire alarms, detection systems and other construction information about the building. Please see the handout for Fire and Life Safety Summaries (FLSS) for more information.

Shell Permits
If your project is in a space that was originally permitted as a “Shell”, meaning it was not built out and ready for occupancy under the prior permit, your permit will be taken in and routed to the original reviewer. Under the Shell permit, the owner was required to complete the Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement as part of that submittal.

Seismic Strengthening Requirements
Portland City Code, Title 24.85 contains criteria that may trigger requirements for additional seismic strengthening when the work involves an existing building.

Plan Review Process

Some simple Commercial Alteration permits can be issued "over the counter" while you wait. You will meet with review staff from different departments who will check your construction documents to verify the proposed construction will meet the various codes. During the review, if information is missing, or if corrections are needed, you will be asked to return with that information.

If the project is more complex and a review cannot be completed over the counter, the plans will be taken in for further review. You will be sent a checksheet requesting any clarifications or corrections. For additional information on the review process, see the permitting process overview flowchart.

The bureaus/review groups that will check a commercial alteration project include:

  • Planning and Zoning
  • Life Safety
  • Bureau of Fire and Rescue
  • Structural
  • Addressing
  • Site Development Review
  • Plumbing
  • Bureau of Environmental Services Review
  • Portland Bureau of Transportation Review
  • Bureau of Parks and Recreation Review
  • Urban Forestry Review
  • Water Bureau Review


The yellow inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first.

Once your building permit is issued, if there is any ground disturbing activity, then erosion control measures must be installed, inspected and approved, prior to beginning any other work.

Applications & Handouts