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Design Review

Design review (also called preservation review) ensures that work on historic property meets historic preservation standards. Depending on the amount of work proposed, the review can involve a brief consultation with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) or a presentation to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Some special situations involve the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) or other review bodies.

What is the reason for design review?

When you propose to alter or build on historic property, the DC preservation law requires a review for compatibility with its historic character. The review serves the public interest in protecting and maintaining the District’s beauty and cultural heritage.

How does design review work?

The review process depends on the size of your project. Major projects must be submitted to HPRB for consideration at a public meeting. For minor projects including many alterations and small rear additions, you can usually complete the review by consulting the HPO staff.

HPRB Concept Review of Major Projects

For large projects involving major work on a historic property, HPO can give initial guidance, but you must also file for HPRB review. The HPRB review brings more expertise to complex preservation issues, ensures public notice, and gives the public an opportunity to comment.

HPO Expedited Review of Minor Projects

Expedited review by the HPO staff allows minor projects that do not affect historic character to proceed without unnecessary delay or an undue burden on the applicant. This applies to more than 95 percent of permit applications. Once the review is complete, HPO can clear the permit application for further processing.

Commission of Fine Arts and Other Reviews