Prospect Park Historic Designation
At today's Council meeting, I moved to nominate the Prospect Park neighborhood for local historic designation. The City's Planning staff have been directed to bring this nomination forward to the City's Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) by September 16. If the HPC approves the nomination, the neighborhood will be granted interim historic preservation, which will stay in place until a final decision by the neighborhood and the City's Planning Department about whether to put in place the historic district, what the boundaries will be, and what specific protections will be included.
Interim protections will cover all external alterations to buildings and accessory structures (like garages). This includes demolitions, additions, renovations and other improvements to properties are considered to be contributing properties to the district. Basically, if property owners want to tear down a house or put on a new porch, they'll have to bring their plans through HPC.
It might be interesting for folks to know the history of this issue. Back in 2001, the local historic consulting firm Hess-Roise drafted a study recommending historic designation of a district covering much of Prospect Park. After the study was given to the City, projects (including a demolition of a home on Bedford St SE) were brought through the HPC by Planning staff in 2002. After a staff change in recent years, several demolition projects were not brought through HPC, due to the fact that the neighborhood does not have formal interim protections. To clear up this confusion, recently the Prospect Park / East River Road Improvement Association unanimously voted to ask me to nominate the district for local designation.
If the HPC approves this nomination then we will begin a lengthy process of completing the local designation study. I am sure that we will use and rely on the work done to date, but it will also be very important inform property owners and to know that there is strong community support for this effort and that it is supported particularly by a good majority of property owners. Clearly, there are advantages to historic designation in terms of preserving historic resources but there may also be perceived disadvantages as certain limits and guidelines are put in place which may limit the flexibility property owners have to alter those buildings that are identified ans contributing to the historic district.
It is my intention to work closely with City staff and the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association to develop an extensive and effective community involvement process if this nomination and study go forward and well before any final decision is made about local designation as an historic district. To learn more about other historic districts in the City you may want to visit here.