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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.

Nonconforming Development

Even if you don't intend to make any improvements to the site, the zoning code has a value of work trigger that could require site improvements. When the value of your interior improvements have a market value totaling more than $131,150 (adjusted annually), up to 10% of the project cost must be spent toward making the existing site development meet the current zoning code.

The project value for this purpose can be reduced by the cost of any required seismic or accessibility upgrades included in the project. Site work required by zoning could include improving or providing: landscaping, bicycle parking, pedestrian circulation systems, screening and/or paving. The zoning code calls a situation where those existing elements on a site don't meet current code requirements "nonconforming development".