Kalamazoo City
English Spanish

Local Historic Districts

Local Historic Districts must meet the same standards for historic integrity as National Register Historic Districts, but add an extra layer of locally enforced design review. The Kalamazoo Historic District Commission (HDC) is made up of seven volunteer citizens with an expertise in historic preservation or historic architecture. Established under the authority of Michigan Public Act 169, the HDC makes quasi-judiciary decisions on design review for proposed exterior work in a designated Local Historic District. Work must conform to the Kalamazoo HDC Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. Essentially this means that any work should not alter the historic character of the building. Parts of the building should be repaired rather than replaced. If replacement is absolutely necessary, the replacement should match the original in shape, size, proportion and material. HDC decisions carry the weight of law and may be appealed to the State Historic Preservation Review Board. Projects can be submitted for review by the HDC by completing the appropriate Applications, Forms & Permits.

The HDC receives over 400 applications for exterior work each year. The Historic Preservation Coordinator approves more than 80% of the applications immediately, and the rest are sent on to the HDC for review at their monthly meeting. Overall, the HDC approves 95% of the projects presented, matching the national average for historic design review commissions.

The process of submitting your project for review is simple. Here are the pdf  basics  of the process.

Who is affected by the historic districts?

Anyone who owns or manages properties of any kind in the historic districts is affected. This includes owner occupied homes as well as landlords. Contractors who work on buildings in the historic districts also have some restrictions placed on their work. Even non-historic buildings inside the historic district boundaries are reviewed for the impact the work will have on adjacent historic properties.

The Historic District Commission

The Historic District Commission (HDC) is comprised of seven volunteers appointed to three-year terms by the Kalamazoo City Commission. The seven-member HDC must include a graduate of an accredited school of architecture with two years of experience, or an architect who is registered in this state. All members must demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of historic preservation and historic building styles. All must be residents of the City of Kalamazoo. Typically, most of the Commissioners live or own property within the local historic districts.

The HDC meets the third Tuesday of every month at the Kalamazoo City Hall, 241 West South Street starting at 5:00 p.m. The application deadline is the second Tuesday.

The Historic Preservation Coordinator

The Coordinator is a City employee whose expertise is in the field of historic preservation. The Coordinator consults with various departments of the City on a wide variety of projects, and provides advice and guidance to property owners within the historic districts. The Coordinator can approve many project applications administratively, and provides staff support to the HDC.

Additional information about applying to the HDC

Learn more about applying to the HDC, such as:

  • The application process click here
  • Useful HDC definitions click here

Kalamazoo has five local historic districts including 2075 properties:

EMERGENCY REPAIRS

If damage occurs to a structure in a historic district that requires emergency repairs, measures may be taken to secure the structure without approval of the Historic District Commission (HDC) or the Historic Preservation Coordinator. Examples include damage caused by a traffic accident, storm, or vandalism. In an emergency, materials may be put in place to cover damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofing. Tarpaulins may be put in place to prevent further damage. Temporary supports may be put in place, and dangling or loose elements may be removed, marked and stored.

The Historic Preservation Coordinator should be notified of damage to the structure on the first weekday following the damage. The Coordinator will visit the structure and arrange a site visit by HDC members to approve repairs if necessary. This will be done as quickly as possible in order to facilitate timely repairs of the structure. The Coordinator can be reached at any time by calling 337-8804 or sending an email. You will receive a prompt reply.

HDC Violations

Within Kalamazoo's historic districts, any exterior work, except paint, paving or plantings requires review and approval of the Historic District Commission or the Historic Preservation Coordinator. Exterior projects completed without approval or with approval but not in compliance with the specified conditions are considered to be a violation of the housing code of the City of Kalamazoo Code of Ordinances.

When unapproved work is discovered, the Coordinator sends a letter to the property owner which cites the work in question, states why it is inappropriate, and proposes a remedy. There is no fee for this letter and any follow-up site visits or consultations.

If there is no response from the owner (or in the case of a rental property, the rental agent), a second letter is sent. The second letter carries with it an automatic charge of $70.

If there is no response from the owner or agent after the first two violation letters, an appearance ticket will be issued to the owner by the City Attorney's Office and the matter will move into the court system. Ultimately, the owner is the responsible party. Under extreme circumstances the court could order the unapproved work to be removed from the structure and the work redone at the owner's expense with a potential fine of up to $5000. (Michigan PA 169).

Questions about violations can be directed to the Coordinator at 337-8804 or email.