Historic preservation is a planning tool dedicated to recognizing, protecting, and appreciating Gainesville’s diverse historic resources. Simply put, historic preservation is the means for protecting the City’s historic resources from irreversible changes or deterioration and encouraging their active role in the community. Preservation refers to the maintenance of historic resources without significant alteration to the current condition, and can refer to the renovation of a vacant residential dwelling for a different use; the nomination of an historic site or area to the National Register of Historic Places; the designation of a local historic district or landmark; or a combination of any of these.
National Register of Historic Places vs. Local Designation
The National Register of Historic Places is our nation’s official list of historic places deemed worthy of preservation; it recognizes a site or area’s historical, architectural, cultural or archeological significance. While the National Register provides national recognition and promotes rehabilitation tax credits, it does not protect properties from inappropriate changes, incompatible infill development, or demolition. Local designation offers protection against incompatible changes by providing the City with the means to assure that alterations and new construction take place in a manner which respects the historical significance of a site or district.
Local designation does not control the use of a property, but rather serves as an overlay zone which is a defined geographic area that encompasses one or more underlying zoning districts and includes additional requirements. In the case of the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, the additional provisions entail design review of any significant exterior material change. For additional information about the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, how an area can become locally designated, or what constitutes an exterior material change; refer to Chapter 9-8-8 and Article 9-23 of the Unified Land Development Code. To gain a better understanding of what local designation does and does not entail, you can refer to the Historic Preservation FAQs.
Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs)
Upon designation and inclusion within the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) must be obtained from the Gainesville Historic Preservation Commission (GHPC) for a major work project, or the Community Development Director for a minor work project, prior to any material changes in the exterior appearance of a structure or site. A few examples of an exterior material change in appearance include new construction, demolition or relocation, building addition, signage, and parking lots. For a list of major and minor work projects, please refer to Chapter 1: Administrative Information of the design guidelines.
Information on how to obtain a COA is outlined in Chapter 9-23-3 of the Unified Land Development Code. To determine what type of work project is being proposed and whether a COA is required, please contact Jessica Tullar, Special Projects Manager, via email or by calling (770) 531-6570.
Design Guidelines for Local Historic Districts
The Model Design & Construction Guidelines for Residential-Style Local Historic Districts, as adopted by the Gainesville Historic Preservation Commission (GHPC) in May 2005, have been updated to create a more user-friendly, Gainesville-focused set of guidelines. This updated set, which was adopted by the GHPC in December 2013 as the Gainesville Historic Preservation Manual and Design Guidelines, is designed to help owners and occupants of locally designated properties in making decisions about appropriate exterior material changes. The purpose and intent of the design guidelines is to offer guidance to owners and occupants, architects, developers, and other individuals contemplating restoration, remodeling, or new construction on how to maintain the architectural integrity of the structure, its surroundings, and the district as a whole. The guidelines are standards, not laws.
Generally the design guidelines emphasize that it is better to repair and maintain rather than replace a historic or non-historic structure or its character-defining features. The design guidelines are an extension of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, which were formulated by the National Park Service and adopted by the Gainesville Historic Preservation Commission.
To obtain a copy of the design guidelines, please either click on the link below or contact Jessica Tullar, Special Projects Manager, via email or by calling (770) 531-6570.
Certified Local Government (CLG) Certification
Administered by the National Parks Service in partnership with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, the Certified Local Government (CLG) Program is a model and cost-effective local, state, and federal partnership that promotes historic preservation at the grassroots level. More specifically, this certification recognizes a local government’s best practices in historic preservation. Some benefits of becoming a CLG include eligibility for federal historic preservation grant funds and opportunities for technical assistance.
Gainesville received its CLG certification in the spring of 2006 and continues to work to maintain this certification. As a result of becoming a CLG, the City received six Historic Preservation Fund Grants between 2006 and 2012 to assist in the completion of its community-wide historic resources survey and the development of an updated, more Gainesville-focused set of design guidelines.
Historic Resources Survey
As a preliminary step in a multi-phase survey process, the City of Gainesville completed a Reconnaissance Survey or “windshield survey” of the City's buildings and other structures which appear to be historic or have the potential to become historic. The purpose of the windshield survey was to obtain an initial idea of the City's historic resource base and to identify neighborhoods with concentrations of historic resources and prominent individual landmarks.
Following the windshield survey, a Structural Survey was conducted on a resource-by-resource basis and involved detailed research, field inspection from the public right-of-way, and documentation of over 2,000 historic and potentially historic properties within the City. The Structural Survey is intended to better prepare staff to guide the GHPC in its decision-making on requests for local designation and applications for design review.
Surveying of historic resources is an on-going process, but generally the surveying program is designed so that intensive-level surveying is performed every five to ten years as resources gain historical significance. Between November 2006 and September 2011, the City contracted with a private consulting firm to complete a five-phase, city-wide Historic Resources Structural Survey. And, as a Certified Local Government (CLG), Gainesville applied for and was awarded grant funds to help defer the costs of completing surveys.