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!

Use our Sign-up Form to get interesting news and updates delivered to your inbox.

Project Update (5/22/17)

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 for at least two weeks before the meeting, starting in early June. 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 Sunday, June 25.

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

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.

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)


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.

Back to Top back

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.

Back to Top back

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:
Houston Heights East
Houston Heights West
Houston Heights South
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.

Back to Top back

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.

Back to Top back

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

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

Presentation and Handouts

Workshop #1 Summary Report
Potential Design Tools Handout

Back to Top back

Project Update (10/17/2016)

Video of the September 27 community meeting is now available.

Back to Top back

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

Activity #2

Activity #3-4

Activity #5

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

Back to Top back

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.

Back to Top back

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


PDF January Newsletter 2016

PDF February Newsletter 2016

PDF March Newsletter 2016

Back to Top back