INTRODUCTION TO DETROIT HISTORIC DISTRICTS

The Boston-Edison neighborhood is a designated Detroit Historic District, as are our neighbors in the Atkinson Avenue and Arden Park-East Boston Historic Districts. Houses located in designated Historic Districts have additional restrictions on exterior renovations. Regulations are set and enforced by the Detroit Historic District Commission.

The Detroit Historic District Commission was formed by Detroit Ordinance 161-H in 1976. Its purpose is to ensure the preservation of historically and culturally significant areas of the City which are designated by the City Council as Historic Districts. Citizen members of the Commission are appointed by the Mayor and the Commission is staffed by the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.

A building permit is required for any exterior changes to a building or site in a designated or proposed historic district. The Historic District Commission administers a building permit application review procedure and may approve or deny based on the appropriateness of the proposed work. Building permits are issued by the Buildings, Safety, Engineering, and Environmental Department upon approval by the Detroit Historic District Commission. In addition to permit application reviews, the Commission is also involved in other matters concerning historic properties, preservation programs, and designation of proposed districts.

For more information on the Historic District Commission, see the HDC FAQ, review the HDC's Guidelines and Procedures, or go to the HDC's own website.


Who is the Historic District Commission?

The Commission is made up of seven Detroit residents who are appointed by the Mayor. These dedicated volunteers are generally residents of historic districts and represent such professions as architects and realtors. They generally meet the second Wednesday of the month beginning at 5:30 PM, to review applications for building permits in historic districts. A call to the Commission office can confirm meeting times and application deadlines.

The purpose of Historic Preservation in the city of Detroit is to:

  • Safeguard the heritage of the city by preserving areas in the city which reflect elements of its cultural, social, spiritual, economic, political, engineering or architectural history;
  • Stabilize and improve property values in such areas;
  • Foster civic beauty and community pride;
  • Strengthen the local economy; and promote the use of historic districts for the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of the city.


Benefits of Locally Designating Historic Districts

The biggest benefit of locally designated Historic Districts is that property values in the district are increased. In fact, research shows that the additional value added by a historic district designation is typically 10 percent to almost 30 percent. See this article on Historic District property value for more detail. Other benefits include:
  • Preservation of Detroit's neighborhoods, housing stock, and history for future generations of Detroiters.
  • Regulation of exterior changes in neighborhoods including window replacement, ensuring new construction and additions are compatible, and that the historic character of houses and grounds is maintained.
  • Prevention of property neglect and demolition by the use of the maintenance by neglect portion of the ordinance that requires owners to repair their properties before they reach such a state of disrepair that they have to be demolished.

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