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Historic Landmark Commission OKs historic district for Hyde Park

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Just four days after City Council approved a plan to make the Castle Hill neighborhood a local historic district, the Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously to recommend that Council do the same for Hyde Park.


The Hyde Park Local Historic District would encompass, generally, West 38th Street to West 45th Street, south to north, and Guadalupe and Duval streets, west to east, with individual blocks carved out for lack of “contributing structures,” or buildings that don’t reflect the historic nature of the architecture in the neighborhood. The 4200 and 4300 blocks of Avenue A, for example, would not be a part of the district under the current plan.


Under the city’s local historic district guidelines, if the plan is approved, property owners in Hyde Park would qualify for seven-year tax abatements on the added value of renovations done to preserve the historic aspects of their buildings, so long as they invest 25 percent of the pre-improvement value of the structure in qualified rehabilitation expenditures, with 5 percent of that invested in exterior improvements.


In return for those abatements, property owners would be required to follow design standards enumerated in the Hyde Park Preservation Plan. 


Those standards include keeping the original front façade of all homes intact, including doorways, which “should not be enlarged, altered, or relocated”; maintaining original porches, roofs, and chimneys; maintaining trees or planting replacements to “maintain the tree-shaded nature that is central to the Hyde Park character”; conforming all additions to the “form and integrity” of existing homes; and avoiding circular driveways.


Those limitations and standards suit approximately 51.6 percent of the Hyde Park neighborhood fine, according to the applicant, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. The city requires that 51 percent of property owners within a district sign a petition requesting the zoning overlay.


Several speakers in favor of the historic zoning plan spoke Monday night of the need to codify design guidelines in the neighborhood, lest its character fall prey to demolitions, development, and McMansions. One speaker, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said that without the establishment of the local historic district, Hyde Park would be “doomed to inexorable change.”


However, citizens representing the 49 percent not in favor of the rezoning were in attendance, as well. Several of them, concerned about property rights, a perceived inability on the part of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association to adequately information its members of the proposed plan, and the strictness of the design guidelines, expressed their displeasure with the plan and asked the commission to either carve out additional portions of the proposed district or vote against it entirely.


It wasn’t to be, however. After instructing staff to consider the feasibility of “nipping and tucking” the district, commission members, who had taken more than an hour to discuss the historic zoning merits of only a few structures earlier in the evening, voted 7-0 in favor of recommending historic district status for Hyde Park with no discussion at all.

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