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Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

  • 1.  Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

    Posted 11-26-2019 15:43

    I'm looking for examples of historic district designation (in this case, local designation with standards) that have occurred in cities that have a strong local economy which is encouraging property owners to sell or tear down for speculative development projects.    I'd love to find some positive examples of preservationists working with property owners to offset their perceived loss of property value to save resources within a district.  However, even cases that were unsuccessful attempts at this may give me some ideas that would be helpful. 




    Molly Patterson-Lundgren, AICP

    Heritage Preservation and Urban Design Coordinator

    Community Development Department

    City of Rochester, Minnesota

    201 4th Street SE – Room 108

    Rochester, MN 55904

    Office:  (507) 328-2956

    Fax:  (507) 328-2401


    City Vision: A vibrant, compassionate, and innovative team


  • 2.  RE: Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

    Posted 11-27-2019 09:06

    You may already be going down this road too, but if any of the buildings you are saving are public spaces to any extent, it would also be worth looking at studies about the economic value to public spaces. I live in a rural region of New York State, and the small towns that are growing have public spaces and that couple as historic attractions, however small or large. The Strand Theater in Schenectady, NY might help. It wasn't threatened to be built upon, but it was renovated in the name of economic development and is a great success story and a model used throughout upstate.
    Definitely partnering with economic development organizations in the area focused on long-term, local growth is a good way to go. I just sent a request for the name of another building that is a good success story, and if I hear back, I'll send that to you as well. 

    Good luck! ~ Emily

    Emily Martz
    Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks
    Raquette Lake NY
    (315)354-5311 (1022)

  • 3.  RE: Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

    Posted 11-27-2019 11:00
    Boise is on an economic boom and one of the fastest growing cities in the country.  Just last year a developer proposed to demolish a historic structure in one of the city's National Register Historic Districts to construct a condo building.  The District in question contained some of the city's and state's most important historic mansions, but for a variety of reasons had not previously been designated as a local historic district, so no protections were in place.  But under this development pressure the community rallied to protect the building and demanded a local district be created.  The Mayor and City Council understood how important the neighborhood was to the city and state and instituted a development moratorium, which prevented demolition and any building permits for 180 days.  This gave historic preservation staff time to put together research and reports and proceed through the process of creating a local historic district for the neighborhood, which was unanimously approved by the Council.  There was some opposition from property rights groups, however the support statewide and even outside the state was overwhelming.   Development pressure in the City has caused citizens to become more aware of what is at stake and what the City has lost and is losing.  Due to citizen concern the City is now looking at a demolition review ordinance and other tools to slow down demolition of historically important structures and allow more of a public process.

    Ted Vanegas
    Sr. Historic Preservation Planner
    Planning and Development Services
    City of Boise

    "Preservation is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal for urban regeneration." - Stephanie K. Meeks

  • 4.  RE: Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

    Posted 11-27-2019 16:28
    I do not know if it might be useful to you, but the Fall 2017 (actually released in September 2018) issue of Change Over Time (vol. 7, no. 2), published by University of Pennsylvania, addressed issues around new construction in historic districts.

    Jeffrey Ochsner
    Seattle WA

  • 5.  RE: Historic District Designation in the face of redevelopment pressure

    Posted 12-02-2019 10:38
    Edited by Vicki Birenberg 12-02-2019 10:39
    Hi Molly,

    I am so very familiar with the scenario you describe, as I lived on Chicago's North Shore from 1989-2009, when speculative development was rampant and included residential teardowns that completely changed the character of many communities.  One community that seemed to have the tools in place to avert unwanted change was Lake Forest, Illinois.  I am not sure what year they passed their local historic preservation ordinance, but I remember that it was accompanied by strong demolition delay language that made tearing down properties very unattractive to developers.  You may want to reach out to their planning office to learn more.

    I am now in Kentucky, where the urban-county government that includes the city of Lexington has adopted a new Comp Plan whose focal point is maintaining the long-ago established urban growth boundary.  Since the city is growing, this will require the addition of density to existing neighborhoods.  Older, historic neighborhoods that have not yet taken steps to protect themselves from unwanted development and teardowns in their midst are suddenly very interested in establishing local historic district overlays.  A Lexington neighborhood known as "Pensacola Park" petitioned the city to apply for a CLG grant to conduct an architectural survey and develop a National Register nomination, which became the basis for the local designation report.  The neighborhood is primarily an early 20th century streetcar suburb close to downtown, and it includes over 400 properties.  The designation has strong support from the residents, and it has already passed two of the three local hearing hurdles to designation (the final approval, by the Urban County Council, should happen later this week).  Adjacent neighborhoods have taken notice, and are taking steps to begin organizing similar efforts as a result.

    [Vicki] [Birenberg] [AICP]
    [CLG Program and Planning Coordinator]
    [Kentucky Heritage Council]
    [Frankfort] [Kentucky]
    [(502) 892-3606]