Detroit Historic District Commission Guidelines and Procedures

Exterior work on homes in the District must be approved by the Historic Commission. The following general guidelines come from the Historic Commission's website. Also see the HDC brochure, What you need to know...Introduction and Application Requirements

How do you get your project approved?

More information on project approval is available online at the Detroit Historic District Commission and at the Buildings, Safety, Engineering, and Environmental Department. Also see the HDC brochure, What you need to know...

  1. Obtain an "Application for Building Permit" from the Buildings, Safety, Engineering, and Environmental Department located on the 4th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (former City County Building), or download a copy (pdf) from HBEA.
  2. Also check the instructions on HDC's "Obtaining a Permit in Historic Districts" page.
  3. Mail or bring the application to the Commission offices on the 8th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center for approval.
  4. Most projects can be approved by staff (see the list below). Larger projects must be approved by the Commission at their monthly meeting, held the second Wednesday of each month. Applications are due 3 Mondays before each Commission meeting.
  5. You will receive notification once the application has been approved.
  6. Return to the Building and Safety Engineering Department to pay the building permit fee and receive the permit.
  7. If you have more questions on procedure, see the Detroit Historic District Commission FAQ.

What projects require an application?

This list is not all inclusive. If you do not see your project on this list, CALL THE COMMISSION!!

Call the Commission before: Go ahead with your project when:
Changing paint colors Painting in the same colors
Removing large trees, shrubbery, plantings Trimming or pruning trees, shrubs, plantings
Installing new or replacement fencing Repairing a few sections of fence with like materials and sizes
Replacing roofing, flashing, gutters Repairing a few shingles, flashing, gutters
Reconstructing areas of masonry walls, chimneys, floors, porches, etc. Tuckpointing small areas of mortar with matching mortar
Installing new storm and security doors, installing new storm windows Installing or removing storms and screens for the season
Reconstructing all or part of a porch Replacing small deteriorated areas with identical materials and sizes
Installing new doors, garage doors, security doors Repairing existing doors with identical materials
Installing or replacing signage, including awnings Putting out or removing cloth awnings on existing frames for the season
Installing new or replacement windows Replacing panes of glass with matching glass, switching seasonal storms/screens
Cleaning the building
Demolishing all or part of a building, including garages
Constructing a new building or addition

List of work items that the Staff of the Detroit Historic District Commission can approve

Some work can be quickly apprived by the staff of the Historic District Commission. All other types of work must go before the Commission at their monthly meeting.

  1. Gutter and downspout replacement, provided that: (a) quality materials like copper are not being removed and replaced, and (b) the design of gutters and downspouts closely resembles the original, and the routing of the downspouts is either the original or not so placed as to be intrusive in the design of the building, and (c) the colors meet the terms and conditions of the Detroit Historic Districts Paint and Color Guidelines.
  2. Masonry cleaning, provided that the application meets the terms and conditions of the Commission's policy on Exterior Masonry Cleaning Techniques, adopted by the Commission in 1979.
  3. Re-roofing of an asphalt shingle roof with new asphalt shingles, provided that the shingles are of a color and texture resembling historic roofing materials used in the district and/or on the building in question, where that information is known.
  4. Window and/or door replacement, provided that the design and mate-rial(s) conforms with the original, and the color conforms to the Detroit Historic Districts Paint and Color Guidelines; where the existing door or window is not original to the structure, the replacement should be compatible with the architectural design of the structure.
  5. Storm window and/or door installation provided that (a) mullions, muntins, and meeting rails of storm windows conform with those of the prime window, and the design of the storm door reflects the design of the prime door, and (b) if aluminum or vinyl storm windows and doors are used, the color is appropriate under the Detroit Historic Districts Paint and Color Guidelines.
  6. Window or door boarding, provided that (a) the boarding up of win-dow(s) and/or door(s) is temporary and for the protection of the building, and (b) the boarding is painted a dark color such as black or brown.
  7. Replacement of the fabric of existing canvas awnings, provided that the new canvas is not plastic or vinyl coated or does not appear to be so; and where the color is appropriate to the trim colors on the building.
  8. Antenna and satellite dish installation, provided that the design and location meets the guidelines in Historic District Commission Antenna and Satellite Dish Guidelines adopted March 1985.
  9. Replacement of an existing fence provided the type, materials, and height match the existing fence, OR falls within the guidelines of the in the Historic District Commission Policy on Chain Link (Cyclone) Fencing adopted February, 1981 and the Fence and Hedge Guidelines and the location does not change.
  10. Replacement of an asphalt shingle roof with a wood shingle roof provided the owner or contractor can substantiate that wood shingles originally existed on the roof.
  11. Installation of gas or electric lamps in the tree lawn of the Indian Village Historic District, provided the lamps match the standard lamp in the district.
  12. Reconstruction of existing porches, provided the materials and design match the existing materials and design, and that the colors meet the Detroit Historic Districts Paint and Color Guidelines.
  13. Change of paint color(s), provided the new color(s) meets the Detroit Historic Districts Paint and Color Guidelines.
  14. Installation of a temporary, chain link construction fence for a period that does not exceed nine (9) months.
  15. The installation of glass blocks to replace basement windows with the following conditions: (a) the windows are recessed to the location of the existing basement windows; (b) screening or grates are provided to cover the glass block; (c) the windows are no larger than 36" wide by 24" high; and (d) the windows are located on the sides and rear of the property. The installation should meet with the Glass Block Installation Guidelines.
  16. The removal of dead, diseased or damaged trees with a written statement from a professional service or arborist.
  17. A change in walkway or driveway material that matches the same width and length, and meets the districts' elements of design.
  18. Erection of a fence and or hedges at a new location provided the type, materials, and height conform to the Historic District Commission Policy on Chain Link (Cyclone) Fencing adopted February, 1981 and the Fence and Hedge Guidelines
  19. Installation of sign at a new location provided it conforms with the Historic District Commission guidelines on Signs and Awnings.
  20. Erection/installation of canvas awnings for canopies at a new location, provided that the new awning or canopy is not plastic or vinyl coated or does not appear to be so; the color is appropriate to the trim colors on the building; and installation meets the terms and conditions of the Commission's Signs and Awnings Guidelines and the City of Detroit Zoning Ordinance: Article XIV. General Development Standards.
  21. The renewal of seasonal outdoor cafe' plans with the condition that the future application does not change from a plan that the Detroit Historic District Commission approved and no complaints were received about the seasonal outdoor cafe' plan during the previous season.
  22. A change in street furnishing and/or materials that does not change the location of the barrier, barrier style, and meets the Detroit Historic District's Style & Color Guide.
  23. Erection of temporary event tents for a period of fifteen (15) days, with one renewal per calendar year.
  24. Removal of landscaping that is located in close vicinity to an historic building to the extent that it is damaging/has the potential to damage the historic building.
  25. Installation of new cellphone antennas and associated equipment at a building rooftop provided that the new cellphone antennas and associated equipment is finished the same color of the exterior surface to which it shall be affixed and it is minimally-visible from the direct right-of-way.
  26. Installation of new metal or wood hand railing at existing porches under the condition that such work does not result in the removal/replacement of existing historic age fabric and the new railing is compatible in design, dimension, and finish color to existing porch's historic appearance.
  27. The replacement of non-historic age asphalt roof shingles with new asphalt shingles under the condition that the design, dimension, profile and color of the new/replacement asphalt shingles are compatible with the district's Elements of Design; and the building's historic appearance.
  28. The installation of new hand railing at porches under the condition that they are compatible to the building's historic appearance and do not result in the removal of historic fabric.
  29. The installation of new light fixtures under the condition that they are compatible with the building's historic appearance in scale, style and finish and meets the district's Elements of Design.
  30. The installation of potted/ movable plants.
  31. The installation of a new dumpster enclosure under the condition that the location, dimension, and materials conform to the Detroit City Code/Zoning Ordinance.

How can I find out more?

More information on Commission guidelines and procedures is on the Historic District Commission FAQ or contact HBEA with a question. Or go to the source and contact the Commission's Staff:

Jennifer Ross - (313) 224-8907 or rossj@detroitmi.gov
Audra Dye - (313) 224-6543 or dyea@detroitmi.gov