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State Historic Preservation Office

Frequently Asked Questions about Local Designation

Who has the authority to designate local properties as significant?

Local designation is made through a municipality's heritage preservation commission (HPC) under provisions specified in a local preservation ordinance (see state enabling legislation).

How does local designation differ from listing on the National Register of Historic Places?

Local designation means that a property has met the criteria of a local preservation ordinance. Protection of such properties falls under the auspices of the local HPC. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places means that a property joins the nation's official list of properties deemed worthy of preservation. The National Register is directed by the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior and administered in Minnesota by the State Historic Preservation Office. It is possible for a property to have both local and National Register designation or to have either one without the other.

What is a historic district?

A geographically defined area with a concentration of historic buildings, structures, sites, spaces and objects unified by past events, physical development or design.

How does local designation affect me as a property owner?

Local designation of a historic building or district will not prohibit you from making changes to your property. However, any exterior changes you make must meet local preservation guidelines, based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, and must be approved by your HPC. This review process ensures that proposed alterations are compatible with the nature of the property.

If my neighborhood is proposed for local historic district designation, do I have any say in whether or not it is established?

Yes. Public participation is an important part of the designation process. By law, property owners in a proposed historic district must be notified of the proposal so that they may testify for or against it during public hearings to assess the impact of designation.

If my building is to be locally designated, does that mean I have to fix it up?

No. You may maintain the current look of your building; you are not required to restore it. However, like all buildings, historic properties must meet local housing and building codes. Some preservation ordinances include a provision to prevent "demolition by neglect," which allows the local government to step in if an owner is deliberately letting a building deteriorate. If you wish to make changes to exterior architectural features of your historic building, those changes must be reviewed and approved by the HPC.

What will happen to the value of my property?

Studies around the country suggest that property values increase faster in local historic districts than elsewhere. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, for example, commercial property values located within the historic district increased by an average 480 percent compared to an average 281 percent elsewhere in the city. In some areas, local designation may help turn around a decline in property values. A study of St. Paul's Historic Hill District found that residential property values rose 31 percent compared to an 18-percent decrease elsewhere in the city. One study found that buyers valued the extra protection offered by local historic districts and so were willing to pay higher prices.

Why should I support local designation?

Designation has many benefits. It:

  • Helps maintain neighborhood property values.
  • Brings recognition to your building and neighborhood.
  • Keeps you informed about proposed changes in your neighborhood.
  • Demonstrates your community's support for the preservation of its historic properties and neighborhoods.