The City of Portland welcomes the opportunity to work with you on your commercial alteration- tenant improvement building permits and inspections. Learn more about what's required for a complete commercial alteration application. You can also research a property or schedule an appointment to discuss your project.
You can start with this list of forms (if you know what you need) and continue reading to learn more about when some forms are required.
Commercial building permit application and important forms
The following information is part of the application. This is everything you might need when applying for a commercial alteration-tenant improvement permit. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide additional information. Things you need to apply for this permit may include some or all of the following.
If you aren't sure what you need, contact Permitting Services. Forms include:
Building code summary worksheet
Building permit application
Commercial food establishments
Commercial systems development charge form
Guide to inspections
More information about change of use or occupancy
Change of use or change of occupancy webpage
Life Safety forms
Requirements for Rack Storage System Permits
Shell permit acknowledgement statement
Simplified approach form
Submittal guidelines and submittal requirements
Submittal Requirements Commercial for the following can be found on Commercial Permit Submittal Requirements
- Major Interior Alterations
- Minor Interior Alterations
- New Construction, Additions, Alterations with Exterior Work or Structural Changes
Step 1: Research your property and what you need for your project
A building permit is required to repair, alter or change occupancy or use of an existing commercial structure or multi-family residential project with three or more units.
Before you apply for a permit it is important to research the existing conditions established through reviewed, approved and final building permits. If no permit can be found, existing occupancy may be established through a Life Safety appeal process. Otherwise all work without benefit of permit will be treated as new, regardless of when it was installed.
Other items to research:
- the zoning of the property
- the applicable codes
- existing permits on site
- occupancy of the existing building
- the permit cost
- SDC charges
- feasibility of the project
- time a permit remains active
Codes in effect in Portland include City Codes, such as Titles 24 and 33, as well as State building codes. See our Codes webpage for more information.
Find out how to research your property and where to locate the information in preparation for your permit application.
Applications must show how they meet the building code with a code summary. The building code summary is critical to convey design assumptions made for the building:
Change of use or change of occupancy
Projects that change the occupancy of the existing space can be very complex. The Change of Use orChange of Occupancy webpage has information on this type of project. You can also find more information in this brochure:
Fire and Life Safety summary
For very complex projects, a life-safety summary may be needed. This summary has more detail about sprinkler, fire alarms, detection systems and other construction information about the building:
"Shell" means the original building permit did not establish occupancy. Tenant Improvement permits will be taken in and routed to the original reviewer.
- Tenant Improvement permits cannot be submitted for review until the Shell permit has been issued.
- Tenant Improvement permits cannot be issued until :
- Shell permit has final approval or
- Shell permit has reached substantial completion determined by the Building Inspector.
Under the Shell permit, the owner was required to complete the Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement as part of that submittal:
Seismic Strengthening Requirements
Portland City Code, Title 24.85 contains criteria that may trigger requirements for additional seismic strengthening when the work involves an existing building.
Step 2: Get Early Assistance
If you have questions after reviewing the information on this webpage, we recommend you book a free 15-minute appointment with us. This is an optional step. We're here for you if you have questions about the information and materials you need to apply.
For projects with complicated building or fire code issues that need additional assistance, customers may request a preliminary Life Safety meeting.
Land use Early Assistance requests help applicants prepare a complete project proposal, usually a land use review application. A Land Use Pre-Application Conference is required for all Type III and IV land use reviews prior to submittal of the application. They are also available but optional for lower tier land use reviews.
Step 3: What you need for a commercial alteration - tenant improvement building permit (submittal standards)
The submittal guidelines in the required applications and forms provide a detailed list on what needs to be provided with the application.
As part of the review process, a complete submittal is required which includes a completed building permit application, life safety completeness checklist for commercial permits, a Shell TI Acknowledgement statement, architectural, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and landscape drawings.
Review the drawings requirements:
- Drawings, drawn to scale where necessary to verify compliance with code.
- Drawings may be handwritten/drawn if clear and legible. Text or note shall be in print.
- Minimum drawing size: 11x17. All required information is to be clear and legible. Minimum printed text is to be 3/32” or the equivalent 12-point font.
- Cannot use professional's drawings without the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set cannot be used without their permission.
Prepare the following information:
- Building permit application
- Erosion control plan
- stormwater plan , mitigation form and/or
- Review the submittal standards and drawing criteria from the required applications and forms: or
- Complete a if the project includes space that defers occupancy to a future tenant improvement permit
Your project may also need commercial electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits
Your project will most likely need separate electrical permits, mechanical permits and plumbing permits. Apply for these permits once the project has been approved to get a building permit.
Step 4: Apply for a building permit and submit your plans
You can submit your permit application request online using Development Hub PDX. Read step-by-step instructions for submitting a permit application request online or in person.
For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process. Large projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox.
If you need to submit paper plans, you can set up an appointment to pick up plans or drop off plans in person. Or, please call us and we will work with you.
Step 5: Plan review process and making corrections to an application (checksheets)
You can check the status of a permit review on Portland Maps permit/case search. Many people might review a single permit. The Permit Review Process web page has more information about the groups who review permits.
A checksheet is sent to the applicant when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction has to be made to the plans. Read more about how to send us corrections and how to prepare corrected paper plans.
Step 6: Getting your permit and paying permit fees
We'll contact you when your permit is ready, and notify you of any fees due. You'll get instructions for how to get your approved permit and pay your fees. Your permit is not issued until all fees are paid. Read more about the pre-issuance process.
Step 7: Start building and get ready for inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first.
Once your building permit is issued, erosion control measures and sometimes tree protection measures must be installed, inspected and approved prior to beginning any further ground-disturbing activities.
All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.
Step 8: Commercial inspections, results and corrections
To schedule an inspection, call the automated Requests for Inspections phone number. You will need your IVR or permit number and the three-digit code for the inspection. You must call before 6:00 a.m. or the inspection will be scheduled the following business day.
Get the results of the inspection on Portland Maps permit/case search the next day.
Read more about why work does not get approved and how to schedule a reinspection.
Small Business Empowerment Program
The Small Business Empowerment Program assists Black, Indigenous and people of color business owners and business owners with disabilities recognized by the ADA who have experienced barriers in the review process. Learn more about how we can help.
Donate reusable construction materials
The City of Portland works with the ReBuilding Center to make it easy to donate reusable building materials. Homeowners and business owners that qualify can receive materials for free to help make their properties safe. Donating building materials also helps keep waste out of landfills. Learn more about the From Excess to Access program.
Contact commercial inspectors
If you have questions before or after your inspection, you can talk to an inspector.