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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.

Permit Process

There is a lot of information available about permits and the permit process on the BDS website. You may want to look at the Commercial Alterations or the New Users section.

Be aware that commercial permits for work of any complexity are not generally issued "over the counter". That means that you must provide the city with four sets of plans, pay part of the building permit fees up front, then turn the plans in for review.

Staff representing the various groups with an interest in development (building, zoning, fire, transportation, sewer, etc.) will be assigned to your project. Any reviewer who looks at your plans and needs additional info/corrections before signing off will mail you a "checksheet" telling you what they need. The city's goal is to get all of those checksheets to you within a couple of weeks.

To respond to a checksheet, you will go to Document Services, which is on the second floor (above the DSC). You will need to update all four sets of the originally submitted drawings, either by replacing the original sheets with new sheets or marking changes on the originally submitted sheets. Keep any replaced sheets with the new sheets, and mark them "Void".

When all the corrections are made, the reviewers will check the changes made. When all the reviews are completed, it takes several days to process the paperwork. Then, you pay the rest of the fees and the permit is issued. Licensed contractors will need to apply for separate permits to do the electrical and plumbing work.

When all the inspections (building, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) are approved, and the card you are given at permit issuance is all signed off, then the space can be occupied.