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Design Review
Introduction

Historic districts are special.  They represent the character and workmanship of our community's past. It is the goal of the IHPC to maintain this historic integrity for present and future generations through the process of design review.

The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission is responsible for developing plans for local historic areas. Once adopted, the plans become the guide for decisions to preserve the unique historic character of each area and to provide the framework for neighborhood revitalization. This is accomplished through a review process for all exterior modifications, new construction, site improvements, demolition, and land use changes within the designated areas. The IHPC has jurisdiction over only the exterior of buildings.* The Commission's objective in reviewing applications for approval is the preservation of historic fabric and enhancement of those features which caused the historic area or property to be designated.

The Commission views each building and site within a historic area as unique. It also recognizes that the value of each district equals the sum of its individual parts, both new and old. For this reason, all existing buildings and all new development are deemed to contribute to the architectural character of the area and all are subject to the review process.

* The only exceptions are the interiors of Union Station and Hilbert Circle Theater.

What is Design Review?

Design review is simply the procedure of obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness. The IHPC has three types of approval procedures: 1) staff approval, 2) hearing officer, and 3) IHPC hearing.

The procedure that applies to an application will depend on the type of work proposed.  In all cases, an applicant will fill out an application, provide any necessary documentation, and pay the application filing fees (if applicable). Detailed information about this process is available in Policies and Procedures, which can be purchased in the IHPC office.

What is the Purpose of Design Review?

The purpose of design review is to protect and preserve the existing historic character of both the individual properties within a district and the district as a whole. Some examples of what design review may include are: changes to existing exterior facades, roofing, fencing, exterior light fixtures, windows and doors, porches, sidewalks, driveways, trees and landscaping, siding, masonry, paint colors, exterior mechanical equipment, swimming pools, and new construction. (Note that certain types of work are not subject to review in some historic districts.)

It is imperative that all exterior changes or additions to individual properties be reviewed prior to commencement of construction to ensure compatibility with the district's historic character. A Certificate of Appropriateness is required by law. Work done prior to obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness is in violation and may result in late filing fees, delays, and the possible need to make expensive changes.

A preservation plan, which includes design guidelines, exists for each historic district and provides the framework for making design and development decisions. Project review by IHPC staff and the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness are critical to guiding the preservation of existing structures and the redevelopment of vacant land.

What is the Design Review Process?

The criteria used by the IHPC in its design review process are the Design and Development Standards found in all of the Commission's preservation plans. Copies of these plans are available for purchase or review in the IHPC office.  The plans are also available on this site at each of the district's pages (click here to go to the general Districts page).

The IHPC, in determining the appropriateness of any proposed new construction, reconstruction, alteration, or relocation will consider a number of factors. Most importantly, the proposed work should be appropriate in relation to the standards prescribed by the preservation plan or any applicable zoning regulations. This can be determined by color, scale, materials, details, texture, visual compatibility, and general design arrangement.

In determining the appropriateness of any proposed demolition, the Commission considers, in addition to any other pertinent factors, the character and significance of the subject structure in relation to other structures and the historic area as a whole.