Historic Preservation

Historic Districts

Each of Madison’s neighborhoods has its own unique historic identity reflected in its architecture and its overall aesthetic character. As buildings age and rehabilitation and redevelopment occur, it is important to preserve the historic character of Madison’s neighborhoods. To meet this goal, the Common Council has designated four Historic Districts in the City of Madison: Mansion Hill, Third Lake Ridge, University Heights, and the Marquette Bungalows.

In City Historic Districts, all exterior alterations, demolitions, and new construction must be approved by the Landmarks Commission. The Landmarks Commission approves, conditionally approves, or denies applicants’ proposals based upon design criteria developed by the Commission and neighborhood residents. Design criteria specify the unique architectural attributes that neighborhood residents wish to protect and enhance as redevelopment and rehabilitation occur within the District. The City’s Preservation Planner can help neighborhood associations propose designation of new Historic Districts. 

How To Get Started:

v     Contact the Preservation Planner. Contact the Preservation Planner to discuss the feasibility of Historic District designation. 

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Support from your district Alderperson is recommended for Historic District proposals. 

v     Attend informal discussion with the Landmarks Commission. If Historic District designation appears feasible, the Preservation Planner will schedule an informal feasibility discussion at a meeting of the Landmarks Commission. 

v     Develop Historic District criteria. With preliminary support from the Landmarks Commission, the Preservation Planner can explain how to organize a neighborhood committee to develop Historic District criteria. Design criteria describe how new construction or exterior building alterations (such as re-roofing or re-siding) should blend in with the appearance of existing buildings in the District. 

v     Organize neighborhood informational meeting. Organize a neighborhood meeting to describe the purpose and benefits of Historic District designation; present the preliminary Historic District criteria developed by your neighborhood committee; and solicit District criteria ideas from neighborhood residents.

v     Submit proposed Historic District criteria to the Preservation Planner. Based on your proposed Historic District criteria, the Preservation Planner and the City Attorney will prepare a proposed Historic District ordinance for review by the Landmarks Commission, the Plan Commission, and the Common Council. 

v     Attend meetings/hearings of the Landmarks Commission, the Plan Commission, and the Common Council. Historic Districts must be approved by the Landmarks Commission, the Plan Commission, and the Common Council. Both the Landmarks Commission and the Common Council hold public hearings at which neighborhood residents may speak or submit written comments on Historic District designation proposals. The Preservation Planner can inform you about when public meetings and public hearings will be held.

v     Monitor Historic District activities. If the Historic District is approved by the Common Council, any proposed new construction or exterior alteration in the District must be approved by the Landmarks Commission based upon the criteria specified in the Common Council resolution that created the District. The Preservation Planner can explain effective ways for neighborhood associations to participate in this review process. 

Contact:

Preservation Planner

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: rcnare@cityofmadison.com 

Neighborhood Conservation Areas

The Neighborhood Conservation Area concept was developed by the Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force in 1996. In contrast with Historic Districts, Conservation Areas focus on general urban design attributes – such as setbacks, scale, and visual relationships between structures – rather than specific building details.

Similar to Historic Districts, residents of Neighborhood Conservation Areas help develop the criteria by which any proposed new construction or exterior alteration within the Conservation Area would be reviewed. Depending on the unique characteristics of the particular Conservation Area, these criteria may be implemented in a range of ways – including incentives, ordinances, regulations, building codes, and/or design review procedures. The City’s Preservation Planner can help neighborhood associations propose designation of Neighborhood Conservation Areas.

How To Get Started:

v     Contact the Preservation Planner. Contact the Preservation Planner to discuss the feasibility of Neighborhood Conservation Area designation.

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Support from your district Alderperson is recommended for Neighborhood Conservation Area proposals.

v     Develop Conservation Area criteria. If your proposed Neighborhood Conservation Area appears feasible, the Preservation Planner will explain how to organize a neighborhood committee to develop Conservation Area criteria. Design criteria describe how new construction or exterior building alterations (roof shape, porch design, etc.) should blend in with the visual characteristics of the Conservation Area. 

v     Conduct neighborhood informational meeting. Organize a neighborhood meeting to describe the purpose and benefits of Neighborhood Conservation Areas; present the preliminary Conservation Area criteria developed by your neighborhood committee; and solicit criteria ideas from neighborhood residents.

v     Submit proposed Conservation Area criteria to the Preservation Planner. Based on your proposed Conservation Area criteria, the Preservation Planner and the City Attorney will prepare a Conservation Area ordinance for review by the Common Council and other pertinent City review bodies. 

v     Attend City meetings/hearings. The Common Council may refer the draft ordinance to pertinent City review bodies before making a final decision on approval. The Preservation Planner can inform you about when public meetings and public hearings will be held.

v     Monitor Conservation Area activities. If the Conservation Area is approved by the Common Council, specific mechanisms (such as incentives, ordinances, regulations, building codes, and/or design review procedures) will be established for guiding future new construction or exterior alterations in the Conservation Area. The Preservation Planner can explain effective ways for neighborhood associations to participate in related review processes. 

Contact:

Preservation Planner

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: rcnare@cityofmadison.com 

Historic Landmarks

In many areas of the City of Madison, specific sites stand out as historic treasures which warrant measures to ensure their preservation into the future. To protect these sites, the Landmarks Commission has designated 135 Historic Landmarks within the City of Madison. Most of these landmarks are buildings, but they also include several park areas and Native American mounds. With help from the City’s Preservation Planner, citizens and neighborhood associations can propose Historic Landmark designation for historically significant neighborhood sites. 

How To Get Started:

v     Contact the Preservation Planner. If you would like to nominate a neighborhood building or site for Historic Landmark designation, contact the Preservation Planner to discuss feasibility.

v     Contact the property owner. The owner of the property should be notified before you submit a landmark nomination.

v     Contact your District Alderperson. Inform your district Alderperson of your landmark nomination.

v     Submit landmark nomination to the Preservation Planner. If Historic Landmark designation appears feasible, the Preservation Planner will explain how to prepare a landmark nomination. The Landmarks Commission reviews and schedules a public hearing for nominations that meet preliminary requirements.

v     Attend Landmarks Commission hearing. The Landmarks Commission holds public hearings on landmark nominations. 

v     Monitor Historic Landmark activities. If the Historic Landmark is approved by the Landmarks Commission, any future proposed exterior alteration to the site must be approved by the Landmarks Commission. The Preservation Planner can explain effective ways for neighborhood associations to participate in this review process. 

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  How can citizens and neighborhood associations find out about neighborhood history and historic rehabilitation methods?

A:  The Preservation Planner can provide information on basic neighborhood history, refer you to sources of further information, and also suggest sources of information on appropriate rehabilitation methods for older neighborhood structures. The Department of Planning and Development also provides a series of walking tour booklets describing the history of various downtown neighborhoods. If you would like to develop a walking tour guide booklet for your neighborhood, the Preservation Planner can help. 

Q:  What is the National Register of Historic Places? 

A: Several Madison areas are on the National Register of Historic Places, including University Heights, Sherman Avenue, and the area around Orton Park. In cooperation with the State Historical Society, the City has recently nominated all other eligible City neighborhoods, including Mansion Hill, Wingra Park, West Lawn Heights, Nakoma, and the Fourth Lake Ridge area. Property owners within Register areas are eligible to receive Federal and/or State Historic Preservation Tax Credits for historically sensitive rehabilitation. The tax credit amount is related to the cost of rehabilitation; federal and state credit formulas differ. The City of Madison is not involved in the administration of these tax credit programs. Information on both the Federal and State Historic Preservation Tax Credit programs is available from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at 264-6500.

Walking Tour booklets for various historic neighborhoods can be found at all branches of the Madison Public Library:

 

First Settlement Neighborhood

Greenbush-Vilas Neighborhoods

Langdon Street Historic District

Madison’s Pioneer Buildings (downtown)

Old Market Neighborhood

Schenk’s-Atwood Neighborhood

Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood

Third Lake Ridge Historic District

University Heights Historic District

If the publication is still in print, you can get a free copy. Out-of-print booklets are available for check-out.

Contact:

Preservation Planner

Planning Division

Municipal Building, Rm. LL-100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4635 Fax: 267-8739

e-mail: rcnare@cityofmadison.com 

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