Why Designate Historic Properties

Historic buildings and sites serve as important visual and tangible links to our heritage. Designation helps us protect and share our history and instill a sense of pride within our community. It also benefits the local economy by attracting visitors and buyers looking for unique historic homes and commercial properties.

Apply here to request the study of properties for local historic district designation.

What are the types of historic designations?

There are three types of designations for historic sites – local, state and federal. Individual historic sites and entire districts may receive just one type or a combination of multiple designations. The Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (Section 11.3.4) has a process for designating Local Historic Districts, which can include either individual sites or a collection of properties.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (the State Historic Preservation Office) manages the Virginia Landmarks Register and the state designation process. The National Park Service manages the National Register of Historic Places and the national designation process.

How does a property or neighborhood become an Arlington Historic District?

The Arlington County Zoning Ordinance Section 11.3.4A explains the local historic district designation process. Any Arlington resident can request that the HALRB consider a property for local historic designation. If the HALRB determines that a site meets at least two of the 11 designation criteria specified in the Zoning Ordinance, additional study will be conducted.

A detailed research report and associated design guidelines would be prepared in conjunction with the property owner. This information would be presented during an official public hearing of the HALRB. If the HALRB recommends historic designation, that request goes to the Planning Commission and the County Board. The County Board has the final authority for establishing local historic districts. The entire local designation process typically takes several months and is outlined in the Zoning Ordinance in section 11.3 and section 15.7.

What are the benefits of historic designation?

Historic district designation is a proven community stabilizer. Recent studies suggest that historic districts nationwide have higher resale values and increased property values than comparable properties and neighborhoods outside of designated historic districts.

The primary benefit of local designation is the protection it provides. Historic buildings and sites that are Arlington Historic Districts are protected by a zoning overlay and entitled to a design review process. Design review helps guide and manage proposed exterior changes within the district and offers protection from inappropriate alterations and incompatible new construction. Owners are required to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) from the HALRB for all proposed exterior changes, new construction or demolition prior to obtaining County building permits. The HALRB does not review basic maintenance and repairs, or replacements that use the same materials, paint colors or interior alterations.

A main benefit of listing historic properties in the National Register of Historic Places is the financial incentive for qualifying rehabilitation work. In some cases, owners of historic properties may be eligible for federal and/or state historic tax credits for their rehabilitation projects. The National Park Service and the Internal Revenue Service administer the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office. It offers a 20-percent tax credit and a 10-percent tax credit for certified historic and older properties. If your property is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places or located within a National Register historic district, you can still demolish, alter, add, sell or rent your property without any intervention by the federal, state or local governments.

In addition, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources administers a 25-percent state rehabilitation tax credit.