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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.


The city will require that plans for any project with complex issues or structural work be prepared by a licensed professional. Plans need to be clear and complete, regardless of who prepares them.

Plans will generally include a site plan, a plan of each floor, a cross section, and often stair details. Plans should show how the proposed use and layout meet current code requirements. If there are areas that need to be improved to meet current code, the drawings should include construction details showing how these will be modified.

Depending on the age of the building, we may have plans of the existing building in our microfilm records that can help during the planning stage. See information on Resources/Records.

We encourage you to visit the Development Services Center (DSC) as soon as you have preliminary plans showing what you have in mind.

The DSC is on the ground floor of the building at 1900 SW 4th (4th and Hall). See DSC Hours and Service Availability.

In the DSC you will find technical staff from virtually all of the city bureaus that can discuss requirements applying to your project and that will be reviewing your project when it comes in for a permit.

DSC staff can also give you an idea of the permit fees for your project.