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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.


Design Review

Many areas in the city are designated as design districts. If the land use zoning of the property that you are considering has a "d" overlay (e.g. is zoned EXd or CSd), that means that any exterior changes to the building will need to go through the city's Design Review process. Design review may evaluate the architectural style, the building materials, the color, etc. to make sure that they meet the guidelines for that particular design district.

In some cases, objective standards in the zoning code may be used instead of design review. Community Design Standards may be used for some projects depending on the square footage of the exterior affected and what plan district the work is in. There are several types of design review and even the quickest can be expected to take several months. It may be possible to break out the exterior work from the remainder of the project in order to get started with the interior work sooner. Speak to a planner in the DSC, or call (503) 823-7526 for more information on design review and how it might apply to your exterior alterations.