An Historic District is a neighborhood that retains distinctive character and a high degree of historic integrity in its structures, landscape and streetscape. Together, these represent important aspects of an area’s history within a period of significance, typically 50 years and older.
A primary benefit is fostering community awareness, and pride in heritage, and sense of a place. The designation tends to stabilize neighborhoods and improve the character of remodels and new construction. As a result, property values within the district tend to increase.
Historic District Guidelines are approved and protected by the National Park Service, but remodeling and new construction are regulated by local ordinance and — where adopted by residents — design guidelines specific to the district. The guidelines are provided to owners, builders and architects. They are used by residents, city staff and the Landmarks Commission during planning, review, and permit approval. Learn more about the proposed guidelines in slides from the May 26 presentation.
The Case for an Historic District
The city’s Comprehensive Plan has lofty aspirations and trumpets neighborhoods — but the zoning code and aggressive changes now under discussion appear headed to produce ill effects. They fail to protect the unique places and neighborhoods that attract and retain residents of all ages and incomes. They seem likely to encourage:
- Speculative demolition and infill (see map of vulnerable properties under existing code)
- Erosion of a sense of place and history
- “Mansion-ization” and reduced affordability
- Reduction of diversity of house size and age
- Incompatible architectural scale and massing
- Reduced green space and landscaping
- Increased impervious surfaces
- Destruction of the urban tree canopy
Eastmoreland should consider joining other neighborhoods that have chosen to protect historic resources and guide development. Yes, change happens, but if we work together we can change for the better and protect what we love. Historic district recognition is intended not to arrest change, but to set clear guidelines for remodels and replacements that engage neighbors in advance and respect the architecture and setting of neighboring houses.