Excerpt from Baltimore Brew:
In 2013, the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association asked Baltimore’s preservation commission to explore the idea of designating Federal Hill a local historic district.
Three years later, the commission is responding to the community’s request, but some property owners are questioning whether they want the designation after all.
The debate is expected to heat up as city officials survey property owners and meet with residents and business owners to gauge the level of support for making this enclave of middle-class homeowners a historically protected zone.
One of the first meetings took place last Wednesday when Eric Holcomb, executive director of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), briefed board members of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association about the community outreach effort.
Residents asked Holcomb a series of questions about historic districts, how much the city will control or dictate what they can do with their properties, and how fairly the design regulations will be applied.
If property owners back the designation, Federal Hill would be one of the largest historic districts in the city, with more than 1,000 properties spread over 20 square blocks.
Proposed boundaries are Key Highway and Hughes Street on the north, Key Highway or Covington Street on the east, Cross Street on the south, and Hanover Street on the west.
The boundaries would rival the size of historic districts in Mount Vernon, Fells Point and Union Square.
Many of the properties within the proposed boundaries are more than 100 years old. Holcomb said he believes there is no question that the area meets the historical and architectural criteria, but the city also wants owners to support the designation before it will move ahead.
In January, Holcomb sent letters to property owners to inform them about the possible designation and ask them to take part in a survey about whether they support the idea.
After receiving the results of the survey, Holcomb said, CHAP’s staff will present a report including the survey results at a public hearing where the preservation commission will determine whether to continue the designation process.
If CHAP decides to move forward with designation, he said, another public hearing will be scheduled to determine if the area meets the city’s historical and architectural criteria for designation.
Baltimore has 33 local historic districts. Holcomb said Federal Hill is one of several communities that are in various stages of considering whether to become a city historic district.
Other neighborhoods under consideration include Old Goucher/Station North and Barclay-Greenmount in North Baltimore and the Barre Circle part of Pigtown.