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10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District


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These 10 steps will help you establish a historic district in your town or city.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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10 Steps to Establish a Local Historic District

  2. 2. 1. Consider the whole package. Whatever the goal for your community, keep in mind that historic district status is simply one tool to protect community character and should be used in combination with other planning and revitalization strategies.
  3. 3. 2. Recognize the district’s associative value and economic advantages. Keeping buildings, sites, and objects around for future generations to appreciate is one of the deepest justifications for historic preservation. In addition, well-preserved and revitalized historic districts can give an older area an economic boost.
  4. 4. 3. Make a compelling case. Clearly articulate the benefits of creating a local historic district to government officials. More importantly, help property owners fully understand what designation will mean for them, since their property use will in some ways be restricted. Robust presentations and discussions upfront can minimize controversy later.
  5. 5. 4. Form a broad-based task force. Bring together community members and have the local governing body pass a resolution officially recognizing them as a task force. The group will drive creating the local district, and some of its members may even be appointed to the preservation commission.
  6. 6. 5. Launch a public awareness campaign. Begin early to build public and political support. Creating a district will affect and interest a wide range of citizens, so target your outreach to diverse groups, including elected officials, media, the business community, religious leaders, and schoolchildren. Make sure your education materials are clear, concise, and easy-to-understand.
  7. 7. 6. Ally with a local nonprofit preservation organization or historical society. These types of groups can help educate constituents, organize lobbying efforts for preservation legislation, conduct historic resource surveys (see next tip), poll residents, provide staff assistance, and more.
  8. 8. 7. Identify and gather information on your community’s historic resources. This step, captured in a historic resource survey, produces a working inventory of sites and structures that informs judgment about where, what size, and how many historic district designations should be made.
  9. 9. 8. Set the district boundary lines. Consider the relationships between natural and man-made features, and how they inform the district’s character. Analyzing the 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 the guidelines are advisory and incentive-based, while other times communities follow a combined approach to make regulations and ordinances more palatable.
  11. 11. 10. Keep educating even after historic district designation occurs. The most effective community education programs are continuous, and it’s important that property owners know they’re subject to restrictions. Some ways to do this include: educating real estate agents, adding district status to real estate listings, and forming neighborhood association “welcome committees” to share guidelines.
  12. 12. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit Photos courtesy: Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC ND 2.0; Tim Evanson/Flickr/CC BY SA 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0; John Rogers/Flickr?CC BY NC ND 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC BY NC 2.0; Lee Wright/Flickr/CC BY SA 2.0; Brent Moore/Flickr/CC BY NC; 2.0; Wally Gobetz/Flickr/CC