[10 on Tuesday] 10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District


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Today’s local preservationists are big-picture thinkers. They’re not looking only at landmarks; they’re also thinking about their community’s whole environment, development history, sustainability, and politics. And one great way to protect a place’s history, culture, and values is to establish a local historic district.

A local historic district is an entire area or group of historic structures deemed significant to the city's cultural fabric that are protected by public review. This can include downtown commercial areas, main streets, waterfront districts, and residential districts.

This toolkit gives you a broad roadmap to follow when considering establishing a local historic district in your area. More resources to come over the next few months!


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[10 on Tuesday] 10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District

  1. 1. Establish a Local Historic District10 Steps to Designate and Protect Your HistoricCommunity Photo courtesy SeeMidTn.com, Flickr
  2. 2. Photo courtesy Emilio Guerra, Flickr1. Consider the whole package.Whatever the goal for your community, keep in mind thathistoric district status is simply one tool to protect communitycharacter and should be used in combination with otherplanning and revitalization strategies.
  3. 3. 2. Recognize the district’sassociative value andeconomic advantages.Keeping buildings, sites, and objectsaround for future generations toappreciate is one of the deepestjustifications for historicpreservation. In addition, well-preserved and revitalized historicdistricts can give an older area aneconomic boost. Photo courtesy .melanie, Flickr
  4. 4. 3. Make a compelling case.Clearly articulate the benefits of creating a localhistoric district to government officials. Moreimportantly, help property owners fullyunderstand what designation will mean for them,since their property use will in some ways berestricted. Robust presentations anddiscussions upfront can minimize controversylater.Photo courtesy chicagogeek, Flickr
  5. 5. 4. Form a broad-based task force.Bring together community members and have the local governingbody pass a resolution officially recognizing them as a task force.The group will drive creating the local district, and some of itsmembers may even be appointed to the preservation commission. Photo courtesy The Seafarer, Flickr
  6. 6. 5. Launch a publicawareness campaign.Begin early to build public and political support.Creating a district will affect and interest a widerange of citizens, so target your outreach todiverse groups, including elected officials,media, the business community, religiousleaders, and schoolchildren. Make sure youreducation materials are clear, concise, andeasy-to-understand.Photo courtesy Universal Pops, Flickr
  7. 7. Photo courtesy Ron Cogswell, Flickr6. Ally with a local nonprofit preservationorganization or historical society.These types of groups can help educate constituents,organize lobbying efforts for preservation legislation, conducthistoric resource surveys (see next tip), poll residents, providestaff assistance, and more.
  8. 8. 7. Identify and gatherinformation on yourcommunity’s historicresources.This step, captured in a historicresource survey, produces aworking inventory of sites andstructures that informs judgmentabout where, what size, and howmany historic district designationsshould be made. Photo courtesy wallyg, Flickr
  9. 9. Photo courtesy Vanishing STL, Flickr8. Set the district boundary lines.Consider the relationship between natural and man-madefeatures, and how it informs the district’s character. Analyzingthe district this way then helps set appropriate boundaries,and takes into account a variety of historical, visual, physical,political, and socioeconomic factors.
  10. 10. 9. Follow the design review process.Mandatory design reviews are most common. Sometimes theguidelines are advisory and incentive-based, while other timescommunities follow a combined approach to make regulations andordinances more palatable. Photo courtesy The Dark Thing, Flickr
  11. 11. 10. Keep educating evenafter historic districtdesignation occurs.The most effective community educationprograms are continuous, and it’s especiallyimportant that the people who purchaseproperty in a historic district know they’resubject to restrictions. Some ways to do thisinclude: educating real estate agents, addingdistrict status to real estate listings, and formingneighborhood association “welcomecommittees” to share guidelines.Photo courtesy ColorblindRain, Flickr
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.