After more than six years of work by the Harlem Historic Preservation Commission, a proposed historic district will go before Harlem City Council for approval this week.
The issue will be on the agenda at Thursday's meeting. The city council work session will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, followed by the meeting.
The commission set the district in 2006 after compiling an inventory of the city's 230 buildings that are more than 50 years old and historically intact.
Since then, the commission and city leaders have met numerous times, including hearings and public meetings, to set the boundaries of the district.
"There's been some significant changes and reduction in the size of the district," Mayor Scott Dean said.
The original district encompassed most of downtown. It stretched roughly east and west from Paschal Street to North Louisville and East Boundary streets, and to South Bell and Blanchard streets to include two cemeteries and Mount Moriah Baptist Church. The district also included the Harlem Heights neighborhood.
Dean said the district that will go before the city council is a pared down version that includes mostly the downtown commercial corridor of the city, cutting out much of the residential area. Many homeowners seemed to disagree with the rules for the district.
"The commercial district is the biggest portion of it now, which was the original intent (of the city council) proposal way back when, before we did all the survey and everything else," Dean said.
Ann Blalock, who was the chairwoman of the original commission, said she does not support the amended district.
"Because you are taking 80 percent of the historic homes out of it," Blalock said.
If approved, property owners inside the district will be required to get a certificate of appropriateness from the commission for any aesthetic renovations requiring a building permit.
The guidelines are not retroactive and will not affect existing changes.
Residents expressed concern about the cost to keep homes historically accurate.
But the guidelines are not designed to control homeowners and are not as stringent as they sound, said Blalock, adding that most requests likely would be approved.
The city's planning and zoning department will grant about 95 percent of proposed changes to structures in the historic district without the need for approval from the commission, Dean said. Only renovations that use non-similar materials will require commission approval, he said.
Blalock has said that guidelines restricting renovation and development in the district would help protect the city's historic assets and raise property values in the district.
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