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Permits and Design Review

The District of Columbia's historic preservation law is intended to ensure that work done on historic properties is compatible with their historic character. This is accomplished through a design review of building permits and subdivision applications.

Is there a separate permit process for historic property?

No. If you own historic property, you follow the same building permit process as for non-historic property. The historic preservation review is an extra step in the normal application procedure. You do not apply separately for a preservation approval.

What is design review?

Design review (sometimes called historic preservation review) is a way to help you meet preservation standards when preparing plans for work on a historic property. Depending on the type and extent of work you propose, design review can involve consulting a staff member in the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), or making a formal submission to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

Expedited Review by HPO

HPO approves in-kind repair and replacement, small additions, and minor alterations that are compatible with the character of the historic property or area. For routine items, this review occurs “over the counter” on a walk-in basis. For more significant changes, it may involve setting up a meeting with the HPO staff.

When getting a permit, homeowners are encouraged to visit the Homeowner’s Center at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

Commission of Fine Arts Review

Not all preservation or design review in the District of Columbia is conducted by the HPRB or HPO staff. In accordance with several Acts of Congress and Executive Orders, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts ("CFA" or "Commission") reviews three types of building projects:

  1. Federal and District of Columbia government projects;
  2. Georgetown Historic District Projects; and
  3. Shipstead-Luce area projects for properties that face or abut major federal properties, parks and sites.

Additional information is found in the document and website links below:


For More Information