Criteria page. Landmark Districts
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asked questions about Landmark Districts and districting
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This set of questions and
answers, adapted from material of the Chicago Commission on Landmarks, has been
used at small meetings of neighbors with CCL, Hyde Park Historical Society Preservation
Committee and Ald. Hairston's office exploring local landmark districts, including
for Hyde Park east of U of C. There is a somewhat differing set of questions
in the Landmarks Criteria page.
Landmarking Questions, being distributed to small meetings of residents in the
potential Hyde Park District
- How could a
Landmark District benefit Hyde Park?
many communities choose to be designated a landmark district is to maintain
the beauty and character of their neighborhood by preserving its historic
buildings and streetscape. Most of the almost 40 landmark districts in Chicago
were created because there was a threat to that historic environment through
tear-downs, over-development or out-sized reconstruction.
- How does a group
of residential buildings become a Landmark District in the City of Chicago?
a substantial number of the residents of a neighborhood, both owners and renters,
express their desire for a landmark district to their alderman and to the
Commission on Chicago Landmarks. If the district has the support of the alderman,
and if the Commission finds that the group of buildings qualifies as historically
significant, the group is then granted "Preliminary Landmark Status"
by the Commission. Preliminary designation temporarily halts demolition of
all historic buildings until a final determination can be made if the district
does meet the criteria for landmark status. Public hearings are t hen held.
If the hearings do not alter the preliminary decision by the Commission, the
Commission makes a recommendation for full "Landmark" status to
the City Council. The City Council's Committee for Historical Landmarks then
makes a determination, which, if favorable, is forwarded to the floor of the
City Council for an official vote that formally establishes the Landmark District.
This is a slow, deliberate process that can take a year or more.
- What benefits
does a property owner receive from having his/her building landmarked?
is a reputation of quality and real estate marketability that is achieved
when an owner's neighborhood is officially designated as a landmark. Landmark
property owners benefit from the official commitment to historic preservation
and the security of knowing that their property and neighborhood will not
be negatively affected by rapid development trends in the future. The Kenwood
Landmark District is a good example of the positive effects of a landmark
- What part of
my home would be landmarked?
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) is concerned with the principal
facades including the roof line and other elements visible from the public
sidewalk and street. For most buildings, this means that only the street-fronting
facade is landmarked, with the owner free to alter the sides and rear of the
building. If you own a corner building, they would be concerned with the two
facades. They do not consider the view from the rear alley. They also so not
regulate what you chose to do to the interior of your home.
- What is the
main difference between a City of Chicago landmark designation and a National
Register of Historic Places designation?
The national Register designating, which most of Hyde Park already
has, does not prevent demolition nor does it regulate new development or reconstruction.
It may create a delay in demolition if the designated property is going to
be demolished as part of a federally funded project. The City of Chicago designation
is the only designation that does protect against demolition
or significant alteration of the landmarked facades of the buildings your
- What is a "non-contributing"
When a landmark district is created, the Commission determines a
"period of significance" for the district. For example, in our neighborhood,
the "period of significance" is probably 1867-1929. Buildings built
outside that period, in most cases would bed considered "non-contributing".
Also, architecture that is of the period but deemed to be significant or has
been too altered might also be considered "non-contributing." Non-contributing
buildings can be demolished. However, the design of what replaces them is
regulated by the Commission.
- Can buildings
within a Landmark District be demolished?
Only if they are non-contributing or have some massive structural failure.
those buildings identified at the outset?
Yes. When the Commission prepares a designation repot, each building is identified
as either contributing, non-contributing or potentially contributing. A potentially
contributing building many simply be be a house that is currently covered
in aluminum siding, but would become contributing if the siding were removed.
- Can a building
owner opt-out of a Landmark District?
Individual owners cannot opt out of a landmark district.
- Are there hardship
An owner can make an appeal to the Commission if they have a financial
hardship with regards to their designated property. Their case is reviewed
and relief can be negotiated on a case by case basis. (For more information,
please refer to the Landmarks Ordinance, Section 2-120-830.)
- How many Landmark
Districts are there in Chicago?
There are currently 37 historic districts, with more on the way.
The first historic district was created in 1971 on Alta Vista Terrace in Lakeview.
Some well known districts include Old Town, Wicker Park, Mid North, Ukrainian
Village, Pullman, Motor Row, South Michigan Avenue, and Armitage/Halsted.
On the South Side we have the Calumet-Giles-Prairie, Oakland, North Kenwood,
Kenwood, Washington Park Court, Greenwood Row House, Jackson Park Highlands,
Pullman, Longwood Drive and Walter burley Griffin Place districts. Districts
slated for designation in 2005 include the Newport Avenue, Milwaukee/Diversey/Kimball,
Logan Square Boulevard, Terra Cotta District, and Ukrainian village Extension
- Can I replace
my windows or do I have to live with the leakey windows I currently have?
the Commission would first encourage you to repair them. If beyond repair,
windows can be replaced. If they are the original windows (wood, for example),
they have to be replaced with a window that matches the original profile.
Anderson, Marvin, Pella, as well as others, make replacement windows that
conform to Commission standards. However, only those windows visible from
the public right of way need to conform to Commission standards. All others
can be replaced as the owner sees fit.
- Can I add an
addition to the rear?
Yes. And, as long as it's not visible from the public right of way,
the Commission doesn't regulate the design.
- Can I add to
the side of my house if I live on a wide corner lot?
In most cases yes. But if it's visible from public right of way,
the addition has to meet Commission standards. (Public right of way does not
- Can I add a
floor to the top of my house?
It is zoning that will dictate whether a person can add an addition
t the top of his home. However, if you live in a landmark district, and if
the zoning does allow it, the answer in many cases is yes. But it must not
be visible from the public right of way.
- Can I replace
Historic elements of some large building in Chicago are landmarked
inside and out. for example, the lobby and the auditorium of the Chicago Theater
are landmarked and cannot be destroyed. However, the Commission does not specifically
designate the historic interiors of residential homes in landmark districts,
so owners are free to remodel the interiors as they see fit. But, owners who
wish to take advantage of the tax freeze program may be require to retain
and restore period moldings, doors, fireplaces, columns, etc. if they currently
exist in any rooms facing the public right of way.
- Can I paint
my house any color I want to?
Yes. The Commission doesn't regulate paint color.
- Does the Commission
control things like landscaping, driveways and sidewalks?
No. However, if you have a historic fence or garden wall, that may
be included in the landmark designation and therefore wouldn't be able to
be removed or altered. But, these historic elements would be identified to
the owner in the designated report.
- Is the Commission
going to force me to restore my house back to the way it looked at the time
it was built?
No. When a building is drawn into a new Landmark District, it's grandfathered
in its present condition. You are not required to do anything to the home
except maintain it to the minimum standards of the building code, something
that is required of ALL property owners in the City of Chicago. You can replace
non-historic elements in kind, like vinyl windows, or aluminum siding, or
an asphalt roof, it that is what currently exists on your home. If you choose
to do a full restoration in keeping with the Landmark district's character,
the CCL will assist you in your renovation project to assure that it conforms
to the original architecture as closely as possible. These kinds of major
renovation projects may qualify you for one or more tax breaks, as mentioned
below in the "financial" section.
NOTE: The Architectural Review Committee of the Commission evaluates each
design issue on a case-by-case basis. The process is not meant to be adversarial,
but to be collaborative with the homeowners in working towards solutions that
will maintain the beauty and character of the neighborhood. for more information,
contact the CCL at: 312-744-3200. The 4700 block of Kimbark Ave in the Kenwood
District is a very good example of the results of the review process.
- When does the
Commission get involved with my home?
an owner of a historic landmark applies for a building permit, the Commission
is notified. Routine permits, like remodeling a bathroom, usually pass through
the office in less than a day since no review is required.
- I own a vacant
lot next to my house with its own tax ID number. Can I build a house on that
Yes, as long as the design meets the Commission design standards.
PERMITS AND LEGAL
- Does being in
a landmark District increase the time it takes to get a building permit?
Generally not. The Commission prides itself on its ability to process
permits quickly. In 2003, 88% of the permit reviews took one day or less.
Otherwise, it depends on the circumstance. If it takes longer, it generally
has more to do with such issues as zoning, heating or plumbing--not because
of its being in a Landmark District.
- Is there a public
process if I object to what I am asked to do to my house or what my neighbors
are doing to their house?
Yes. The Commission meets once a month, during which a design review
committee will her grievances in a public forum. It's an open transparent
process, where you have the opportunity to voice concerns about your own property,
or that of your neighbor.
VALUES, TAXES, INSURANCE)
- What are the
tax advantages--if any?
Owners of owner-occupied contributing buildings in any historic district
may qualify for an 8-year property tax freeze administered by the Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) if they make a significant investment
in rehabbing their property according to IHPA standards. Owners who invest
25% or more of the Assessed Market Value (as indicated on their Cook County
tax bill) into renovations of their home, can freeze their taxes for 8 years.
After 8 years the tax rate gradually increases over 4 years to the market
rate. Since Hyde Park is a National Register District, most property owners
already qualify for this tax freeze.
- What happens
to my property value? Do property values go down in Landmark Districts?
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has analyzed numerous
studies of property values in Landmark Districts throughout the country over
the years. These studies have shown no indication that property taxes in landmark
districts go down simply because they are landmark districts. In fact, these
studies seem to indicate that the value of homes in landmark districts tend
to appreciate at a slightly higher rate than similar building stock outside
the district. There's no data that proves why that's so, but it is commonly
thought that there is more predictability and physical stability in a landmark
district. Properties tend to be improved rather than neglected and the neighborhood
is safe from rampant and unregulated real estate speculation. Interestingly,
real estate agents often use the headline "Landmark District" in
their ads as an attractive selling point. An extensive study of New Your City
landmark districts commissioned by the New York City Budget Office in 2001
reinforces these earlier studies.
- Would a landmark
district prevent me rom selling my contributing historic home to a developer
for a tear-down?
Yes. However, owners of historic homes should not conclude that they
would not be able to sell their home or a fair price or that the value of
their investment will go down once a landmarked district is enacted. The overriding
market force behind the value of real estate has always been location, location,
location. In many cities, including Chicago, landmark districts are often
the most desirable and sought-after places to live. They tend to be stable
and beautiful neighborhoods with a high degree of owner pride.
- What happens
to my property taxes:
Nothing. The Cook County Assessor does not use Landmark Districts
as a criterion for determining property taxes.
- What about my
hazard insurance. Will it go up?
No, landmark districts are not used as a criterion in factoring insurance
- Why should I
willingly give up the right to maximize the profit on the sale of my home
if a developer offers me a lot of money for a teardown?
This is the most common question asked and most difficult to answer
because it involves more than just monetary values. Communities have to collectively
decide what factors represent a livable environment and then balance those
factors against their expected or assumed profit. If a person buys a property
simply to maximize an investment, he or she may not take kindly to landmarking.
However, if residents value the beauty, harmony and scale of the existing
architecture of their community and wish to be able to moderate future change
to their built environment, then they may consider giving up some freedom
in order to cooperatively form and manage a landmark district. Ultimately,
the decision to landmark is in the hands of the community and the alderman.
The important part of this process is that all of the facts, all of the pros
and cons, and all points of view must be aired in an open and civilized forum
so that the community can make an informed decision.