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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300

TTY : 503-823-6868

1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

I want to remodel an existing commercial building. I won’t be changing the use, but may do some work on the site or on the exterior of the building

A project that would not involve any work on the outside of a building or to the site, and wouldn't change the legal use of any part of the space, is generally one of the simplest types of permits that we issue. An example of this type of project is where an existing office or retail space would be remodeled for a new office or retail tenant, or where the existing tenant wants to make some changes to the layout. 

If this will be a new location for you, and even if you will be using the building for the same use as did the previous tenant, we recommend that you check the building permit records to make sure that the use has actually been permitted and that a change of use permit will NOT be required. It is not uncommon to find buildings that, for many years, have been used in a way that has never been approved through the permit process. Legalizing a change of use can be a lot more complicated and expensive than remodeling an existing legal use. You can avoid surprises by doing the research ahead of time. 

Even with relatively simple interior remodeling projects there are some potential complications to be aware of -- most of which have to do with improvements that could be triggered based on the value of the work.


It is a good idea to check that your use is allowed by the zoning code at that particular location. If your proposed use is a prohibited use in the zone, you may need to prove the use has "nonconforming status". That means documenting that the use was allowed when it was first established and that the use has continued over time. An expansion of a nonconforming use or change to another use prohibited in the zone may require a nonconforming situation review or may not be permitted at all.

Some uses may be limited in floor area even if allowed in the zone and the other uses in a building may need to be identified to determine if the floor area of the proposed use may be allowed. For zoning information, call a planner at (503) 823-7526.