Historic Preservation Design Guidelines

Welcome to the project webpage for the City of Houston Historic Preservation Design Guidelines project. Information about this project will be posted here as it becomes available. Your input is valued and encouraged!

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Press Releases


Project Update (11/8/2017)

On October 19, 2017, project manager Steph McDougal made a presentation to the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission (HAHC) regarding the Houston Heights Historic Districts design guidelines. McDougal shared a summary of comments received from the June 2017 draft, changes made as a result, comments received from the revised August 2017 draft, and recommendations for additional changes to the draft. HAHC members asked questions, but did not deliberate. The agenda item then was tabled for continuation at the next meeting.

On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, the HAHC will resume consideration of that agenda item. Please note that this meeting takes place on a Tuesday rather than the usual Thursday. Ms. McDougal will briefly present specific recommendations for changes to the August 2017 draft (see below). This includes one substantive change: an increase in the maximum finished floor height from 30” to 32”, a result of additional analysis by the Historic Preservation Office staff following Hurricane Harvey.

The commission will vote on whether to approve the list of recommendations presented, excepting any individual items that they wish to discuss. They may discuss and propose changes to the list of recommendations, as well as propose additional changes not already identified; each individual change will require an affirmative majority vote to be included in the list going forward to City Council. Finally, HAHC will vote on whether to recommend overall approval of the Houston Heights Historic Districts design guidelines to City Council.

Members of the public are welcome to attend and speak at the meeting. Alternatively, send an email or letter to Steph McDougal at steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or Steph McDougal, City of Houston Planning and Development Department, P.O. Box 1562, Houston TX 77251-1562. All correspondence received prior to the meeting will be provided to commissioners.


Project Update (10/4/2017)

The last community meeting for the Houston Heights Historic Districts Design Guidelines project was held on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at the United Way Community Resource Center, 50 Waugh Drive. Approximately 50 people attended; thank you to everyone who made time to participate. The meeting consisted of a presentation by project manager Steph McDougal, followed by time for questions and answers. A video of the meeting and a copy of the handout provided at the meeting can be viewed here:

The public comment period for the current (August 2017) draft ends on Friday, October 6, 2017. Please send all questions and comments to Steph McDougal at steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov.

The Houston Heights Historic District Design Guidelines will be presented to the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission on Thursday, October 19, 2017, at 3:00 p.m. in the City Hall Annex Council Chambers. This will be an informational presentation, with no action taken by the HAHC; however, there will be a public hearing so that the community can provide feedback. Citizens who are unable to attend may send comments for the commission in advance of the meeting.

City parking garages were impacted by flooding during Hurricane Harvey. For current information about parking, please see: Commission Meetings and Parking Information

The HAHC will vote on whether or not to recommend the Houston Heights Historic Districts design guidelines to City Council at its meeting on Thursday, November 14, 2017, also at 3:00 p.m. This meeting will include a public hearing as well.

We will present the design guidelines to the City Council's Quality of Life Committee no earlier than January 2018, and City Council will vote whether to approve the design guidelines sometime after that. When those dates are available, we will publicize them here, in social media, and in the Leader community newspaper, with that publication's valued assistance.


Project Update (8/7/17)

Thank you to everyone who attended the June 20 meeting for the Houston Heights Historic District Design Guidelines, shared comments, and participated in usability evaluations. We received excellent comments and suggestions, many of which we were able to incorporate into the revised draft.

The Summary of Changes, above, describes the major changes to the Houston Heights draft design guidelines, which include reorganizing the content and adjusting and clarifying the measurable standards, among other things.

Planning will accept comments on this draft through Friday, October 6, 2017. Please send your comments and questions to Steph McDougal at steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or Steph McDougal, Attn: Planning Department, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 72251-1562.

A community meeting will be held to discuss the revised draft on Thursday, September 28, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at United Way, 50 Waugh Drive, Houston TX 77007. A notice of the meeting will be mailed to all property owners and publicized as usual.

As soon as possible, project manager Steph McDougal will post the aggregated comments received on the previous draft, as well as a brief report of all of the requests for additional analysis and a list of those she will be working on during the public comment period.

Note: If you are a property owner in the Norhill, Woodland Heights, Freeland, or Old Sixth Ward Historic Districts, Steph will be in touch with you later this month regarding the schedule for completing your design guidelines. Thank you for your patience!


Project Update (6/21/17)

The fourth Community Workshop for the Historic District Design Guidelines project was held on Tuesday evening, June 20, at the Heights Fire Station, 107 West 12th Street. Approximately 150 people attended. Project manager Steph McDougal made a presentation on the draft design guidelines for the three Houston Heights Historic Districts (East, West, and South) and took questions and comments from the audience. A video recording of the meeting will be uploaded at the links below as soon as they are available.

Comments on this draft of the Houston Heights Historic Districts design guidelines should be submitted in writing to steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or Steph McDougal, City of Houston Planning Department, P. O. Box 1562, Houston TX 77251-1562. Comments on this draft are due on or before June 30, 2017.


Project Update (6/12/17)

The draft design guidelines for the Houston Heights Historic Districts (East, West, and South) can be downloaded here:

Hard copies of this document are available at the Heights Library Reference Desk.

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Project Update (6/1/17)

The 2017 Design Guidelines Annual Report was presented at HAHC on May 18, 2017. The HAHC accepted the report’s recommendation to consider amendments to the Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District Design Guidelines, which were adopted in 2007. The proposed amendments will be considered in two phases: Phase I will consider a requirement that all Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) applications from Old Sixth Ward be reviewed by HAHC; administrative approval of COAs would be disallowed. Phase II amendments will be brought forward later in 2017, at the conclusion of the current public engagement process.

The public hearing on Phase I of the proposed amendments will take place on:

Thursday, June 15, 2017 – 3:00 p.m.
City Hall Annex, City Council Chambers, Public Level
900 Bagby St, Houston, Texas

Please plan to join us!

At the public hearing, interested parties may comment in person on the proposed amendment. Written comments may be submitted in advance of the hearing to steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or by mail to Steph McDougal, Attn: Planning Department, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 77251-1562. All written comments received by June 14 will be included in the hearing documents.

For questions, please contact project manager Steph McDougal at 832-393-6541 or steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov.

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Project Update (5/22/17) - UPDATED

Over the past 20 months, the City has worked closely with the community to develop design guidelines for the three Houston Heights Historic Districts (East, West, and South). We will present the draft Houston Heights design guidelines for your review at a community meeting, to be held on:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Heights Fire Station, 107 W. 12th St, Houston, Texas 77008
Please plan to join us!

The draft Houston Heights Historic Districts design guidelines will be available for your review one week before the meeting, starting on June 12. Hard copies will be available at the Heights Library reference desk, and an electronic version (PDF document) will be available online on this webpage. We will collect comments at the meeting and afterward through Friday, June 30.

Please send questions or comments to steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or Steph McDougal, Attn: Planning Department, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 72251-1562.

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Project Update (3/31/17)

At the project’s third Community Workshop, consultant Nore Winter and project manager Steph McDougal presented the Phase 1 Design Guidelines Strategy Paper. This report contains the consultants’ findings and recommendations for design tools and building standards to be included in the design guidelines for the Houston Heights East, Houston Heights West, Houston Heights South, Freeland, Norhill, and Woodland Heights Historic Districts. (The Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District, which is updating its existing design guidelines, is following a slightly different process and was not part of the meeting.)

Ninety-four people representing all of the Phase 1 Historic Districts, as well as builders, Realtors, and members of the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, attended the meeting. The PowerPoint slides and a video of the presentation can be viewed here:

Winter explained how his firm used historic fire insurance maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) data provided by the City of Houston and the Harris County Appraisal District, and field research to analyze the original/historic and current composition of each historic district. That information provided the basis for the exercises that community members completed in the two Fall 2016 workshops. Winter & Co. combined the district data and the community’s feedback from those workshops to develop the Compatible Design Survey, which went to all Phase 1 historic district property owners in January 2017. The survey primarily measured community support for additions and new construction of various sizes and configurations. The owners of about 25% of properties in these historic districts responded to the survey and provided clear direction on these issues, which guided the recommendations contained in the Strategy Paper. All of the data from the survey is provided in the Appendices to the Strategy Paper (see links under Project Update 3/16/17).

Winter also discussed several of the specific quantitative building standards that his firm is recommending should be included in the design guidelines for these historic districts, including cumulative side setbacks, lot coverage, Floor Area Ratio standards, and three Maximum Building Envelope shapes. He reminded everyone that these are still recommendations – nothing has been finalized – and the City is seeking property owners’ feedback on both the tools in general and the specific numerical standards that have been suggested for them. (See Strategy Paper Appendix B for those numbers.)

Following the presentation, Steph McDougal led a question-and-answer session. Many attendees asked questions about how the recommendations were developed, how the standards would be implemented in practice, and what that would mean for their individual situation. Attendees had been provided with comment cards at the entrance, and 10 people left comments or questions for Ms. McDougal.

Your feedback is important! Please send all comments and questions to Steph McDougal at 832-393-6541 or steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov. We will be collecting input to these initial recommendations through next week; please provide your comments on the Strategy Paper on or before Sunday, April 9.

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Project Update (3/16/17)

The Design Guidelines Strategy Paper is now available online (click on links below) and in hard copy at the Heights Library reference desk. Winter and Company will present the Strategy Paper at a workshop on March 30 at the Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th Street, Houston, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Please send all comments and questions to Steph McDougal at steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov no later than April 9, 2017.

Design Guidelines Strategy Paper (all sections)

Appendices(all)

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Project Update (2/27/17)

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Compatible Design Survey last month. The City received 871 responses to its recent Compatible Design Survey, which was mailed to the owners of 3,486 properties in the Freeland, Houston Heights East, Houston Heights West, Houston Heights South, Norhill, and Woodland Heights Historic Districts. The City achieved its 25% target response rate by building awareness before and during the survey period, with help from neighborhood associations and individuals. (The Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District Neighborhood Association, which elected to not participate in the survey, is working directly with the consultants to update its existing design guidelines.)

The results of the survey and community input from previous meetings have been used to develop a Strategy Paper, which includes the consultants’ findings and recommendations. We will present that information at a community workshop next month and gather your feedback. The meeting will be held on:

Thursday, March 30, 2017 – 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Heights Theater, 339 W 19th St, Houston, Texas 77008

Please plan to join us!

Copies of the Strategy Paper will be available for review beginning March 16. The Strategy Paper will be online and at the Heights Library reference desk for two weeks prior to and one week following the meeting. Property owners are encouraged to review the Strategy Paper before the meeting. Those who are unable to attend may submit their comments or questions through Sunday, April 9, to project manager Steph McDougal at steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or Steph McDougal, City of Houston, P.O. Box 1562, Houston TX 77251-1562.

Following the March 30 meeting, the consultants will complete the draft Design Guidelines for the Houston Heights (East, West, and South) Historic Districts, to be presented at a workshop on June 20, 2017 (location to be announced). A schedule for completing the design guidelines for the other Phase 1 historic districts (Freeland, Norhill, Old Sixth Ward, and Woodland Heights) will be announced as soon as it becomes available.

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Project Update (2/13/17)

On January 6, the Historic District Design Guidelines “Compatible Design Survey” was mailed to the owners of 3,486 properties in the Phase 1 historic districts: Houston Heights East, Houston Heights West, Houston Heights South, Freeland, Norhill, and Woodland Heights. Property owners were encouraged to respond by returning the paper copy in a supplied business reply envelope or by using an online version of the survey. The City publicized the survey by mailing a postcard to each property owner in advance, placing flyers in local businesses, and leaving door hangers on the doors of owner-occupied homes. Project staff also attended neighborhood association holiday gatherings in Woodland Heights, Norhill, and Houston Heights, and worked with neighborhood associations to broadcast information about the survey via their websites and social media. Individual property owners also posted on social media, and the City Planning Department utilized its Facebook and Twitter accounts to encourage participation. A total of 877 surveys were returned, successfully reaching the target participation rate of 25% overall. The highest participation rates were in Freeland (64% of 36 properties) and Woodland Heights (30% of 386 properties), and the highest number of responses came from Houston Heights East (237, or 26%) and Norhill (197, or 23%). Thank you to everyone who participated!

Winter & Company, the design guidelines consultants, are busy analyzing all of the responses. They will deliver a Strategy Paper in the next few weeks, detailing the project methodology so far, as well as their findings and general recommendations. This will be reviewed by staff and published online, as well as delivered to the City Council’s Quality of Life Committee. The consultants will present their findings and recommendations to the community on March 30 at a community workshop from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The location is being finalized and will be announced, as soon as possible, on this website as well as in a letter mailed to all property owners. The community will have access to the Strategy Paper for several weeks prior to the community workshop, and can provide comments prior to and for one week after the workshop.

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Project Update (1/5/17)

Your input is needed! Surveys are being mailed to all property owners in the historic districts for which design guidelines are currently being developed. You should receive your survey sometime next week (the week of January 9). Please respond by either returning the survey in the provide postage-paid envelope OR complete a full-color version of the survey online. Click the link below to access the survey for your historic district.

Survey Links:
Freeland
Houston Heights East
Houston Heights West
Houston Heights South
Norhill
Woodland Heights

These Visual Preference Surveys build on the feedback received from the community so far, and focus on those areas where we still need more clarity and direction regarding the perceived compatibility of additions and new construction, as well as potential design tools and issues affecting your neighborhood.

Please note: The building scenarios shown in the Surveys do not represent the consultants’ or the City’s recommendations; they are being used simply to gather your feedback. Also, if you own multiple properties, you may complete a separate survey for each property, since your answers may be different for properties in different parts of the historic district(s). However, you may only complete one survey (either online or on paper) for each property, and only one person in your household may complete the survey for each property.

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Project Update (12/12/16)

Consultants at Winter and Company are working hard to prepare the Visual Preferences Surveys, customized for each historic district, which will be mailed to every property owner around January 9, 2017. An online version will also be available. Responses will be due no later than January 27. Please make your voice heard by completing your survey!

Note: Community members who have participated in the workshops so far, either in person or online, have provided very clear direction about what they believe is compatible or incompatible with their historic district. In general, small houses were considered compatible, while extremely large houses were considered incompatible. Therefore, while the Visual Preferences Survey will mention the types of houses for which we already have clear direction, we will not ask about those again. The Visual Preferences Survey will explicitly state that it seeks to clarify the areas in the middle, where there is less consensus.

To make property owners aware of the Visual Preferences Survey, the City will mail a postcard to all property owner. Neighborhood association volunteers may also go door-to-door to provide information and encourage residents to participate. If you would like to volunteer to help generate awareness in your neighborhood, please contact volunteer coordinator Brian McCollum at 281-728-7830 or bmccollum@thinkcava.com

For more information, or if you have questions, please contact project manager Steph McDougal at 832-393-6541 or steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov.

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Project Update (12/2/2016)

The second community workshop for the Design Guidelines project was held on Thursday, December 1, 2016. This workshop presented information designed to help property owners give informed, meaningful feedback on a draft Visual Preference Survey, which every property owner will receive in January 2017. Consultants from Winter & Company explained the various design tools that might be used to achieve the goals for each district, as well as the factors that make additions and new construction compatible with existing buildings. The workshop also included an exercise designed to help the consultants further understand what the property owners in each district feel are compatible with their specific district.

Property owners who were not able to attend the workshop can access the meeting presentation, informational materials, and links to online versions of the workshop exercises below. Please complete the exercises no later than midnight, Monday, December 5, 2016. (The tight turnaround is unavoidable in order to maintain the project schedule.)

Video of the December 1st community meeting is now available.

Workshop Exercises

Freeland
Houston Heights East
Houston Heights West
Houston Heights South
Norhill
Old Sixth Ward
Woodland Heights

Presentation and Handouts

Presentation
Workshop #1 Summary Report
Potential Design Tools Handout

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Project Update (10/17/2016)

Video of the September 27 community meeting is now available.

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Project Update (10/13/2016)

Online versions of workshop exercises from the September 27 Historic District Design Guidelines community workshop are now available for property owners in seven historic districts: Norhill, Woodland Heights, Freeland, Old Sixth Ward, and Houston Heights East, West, and South. The project team wants everyone who owns property in these seven historic districts to have a voice in the design guidelines development process, so we have created online versions of the interactive workshop exercises, in the form of short surveys.

Please take all four surveys: Activity 1, Activity 3-4, and Activity 5 are the same for all seven historic districts. Activity 2 surveys are customized for each district.

Activity #1
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG-Activity1

Activity #2
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG2-HoustonHeights
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG2-OSW
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG2-Freeland
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG2-Norhill
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG2-WoodlandHeights

Activity #3-4
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG-Activity3-4

Activity #5
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG-Activity5

All will be available until October 24 on the Planning Department’s project webpage. Meeting materials are also available for viewing below.

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Project Update (10/3/2016)

Last week’s Community Workshop (9/27/2016) featured an informational presentation by design guidelines consultants Winter & Company, followed by more than an hour of interactive exercises for participants. An online version of most of those exercises will be made available shortly for those who were not able to attend the workshop.

The design guidelines development process is both data-driven and community-driven. Data, including quantitative property information from the City's Geographic Information System (GIS), tells the project team about the physical characteristics of each property in each historic district and allows us to identify patterns of development – along with the metrics behind each neighborhood's unique character. This process is also community-driven. The project team needs to know if our understanding of the neighborhood's character, based on the data mentioned above, is the same as property owners’.

We also want to know what characteristics are most important to people in each historic district. In the meeting last week, Winter & Company presented the different patterns of development that they have identified in each historic district, and asked participants to give their input and feedback. The project team also wanted to know how easy it was to understand the technical information that we shared in the meeting, so we can make sure that when we get to the final product, everything will be clear and understandable. This most recent workshop is the 10th time that project manager Steph McDougal has met with groups of property owners from the various historic districts since December 2015.

PDF Agenda

Noré Winter made an informational presentation.

PDF Presentation

Exercise #1:
Using the “Issues Summary Worksheet”, participants were asked to consider each category (Neighborhood Character, etc.) and list all of the issues or topics that currently affect your historic district and/or should be considered during the design guidelines development process.

Exercise #2:
Winter & Company analyzed vast quantities of physical data about each of the different historic districts. The patterns of development that they identified were described in the Residential Typologies posters below. Participants were asked to share feedback on the Typology or Typologies that are specific to their historic district. They were also asked to locate those Typologies on aerial maps. The project team wanted to know: Does the Description, Site Characteristics, and Neighborhood Characteristics information capture the important features of your historic district? Have we missed or misunderstood anything? Is there anything else we should know?

  • Norhill Historic District
  • Freeland Historic District
  • Woodland Heights Historic District
  • Old Sixth Ward
  • Houston Heights Historic Districts East and West
  • Houston Heights Historic District South

Exercise #3:
In this exercise, Winter & Company presented “Massing Studies” (graphic illustrations) of possible additions. The goal of this exercise was to begin to develop an understanding of what people in each historic district think about the size and shape of additions. Using the massing studies for reference, participants were asked to complete the “Individual Activities” worksheet. Each massing study shows an Existing property, then four different potential Additions. There are examples of “Traditional” areas (with mostly original buildings) as well as areas with “Significant Variation” (in other words, more changes that have already taken place). Areas with mostly one-story buildings are shown separately from areas that include both one-story and two-story buildings. Note: the illustrations do not represent preconceived notions of the types of additions that might be considered – they simply represent various sizes and shapes of potential construction.

Exercise #4:
This was just like the previous activity, except participants were asked to consider New Construction instead of Additions.

Exercise #5:
For this exercise, participants were asked to respond to a series of photographs of houses (not located in Houston) and identify what they liked or didn’t like.

Please send any questions or comments to Steph McDougal, steph.mcdougal@houstontx.gov or 832-393-6541.

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Design Guidelines Project Resources

Community Meetings Summary - April - June 2016

PDF Freeland, Norhill, Old Sixth Ward and Woodland Heights

Phase 1 Advisory Committee

PDF Design Guidelines Phase 1 Advisory Committee

Comments Received – October 2015-March 2016

PDF Public Comments Oct15-Mar16.pdf

Houston Heights Community Meeting #4 – 4/26/2016

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #4 Agenda

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #4 Report

Houston Heights Community Meeting #3 – 2/16/2016

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #3 Report

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #3 Presentation

Houston Heights Community Meeting #2 – 1/16/2016

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #2 Report

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #2 Presentation

PDF Context Areas Handout

Houston Heights Community Meeting #1 – 12/8/2015

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #1 Report

PDF Houston Heights Community Meeting #1 Feedback Cards

PDF Historic Districts Map

PDF Summary of Ordinance Changes Adopted Fall 2015

PDF Certificate of Appropriateness Process Flowchart

Request for Proposals

PDF Request for Proposal for Historic Preservation Guidlines

Houston Heights Historic District

PDF “What Design Guidelines May Be in Store for Three Houston Heights Historic Districts?” on Houston Matters – 12/3/2015

PDF Letter to Houston Heights East/West/South Historic Districts property owners – 11-30-2015

Newsletters

PDF January Newsletter 2016

PDF February Newsletter 2016

PDF March Newsletter 2016

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