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How to apply for Landmarks design review

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Plan to make any changes to a landmarked building in Boston, including repairs or maintenance? You must first apply for approval by the Boston Landmarks Commission or the appropriate historic district commission.

Step
1

Before you get started

You need to get the commission's approval if you want to make any changes to the outside — and, in rare cases, the interior — of:

  • a designated landmark in Boston, including properties in historic districts, or
  • a property with a pending Landmark petition, awaiting a decision on Landmark designation.

We have a list of Landmarks and pending Landmarks in Boston.

All landmarked properties and historic districts have study reports that include design standards and guidelines. You can find study reports on our publications page.

If you are interested in the study report for a pending landmark that is awaiting a decision on designation, please contact us. Email blc@boston.gov, and we’ll let you know if there is a draft report available.

We hold design review hearings for individual Landmarks on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Also see the appropriate historic district hearings. We accept applications on a rolling basis. To be added to a hearing agenda, an application must be determined to be complete by staff 15 business days before the hearing date. Incomplete applications cannot be added to a public hearing agenda. Learn more about the review process and upcoming hearings.

Step
2

Get your info together

When you fill out and complete your online design review application, please double check that everything is included. If your application is incomplete, we won't be able to process it.

A complete application includes:

  • uploaded drawings and specifications for your project (please read the application instructions to see what types of drawings we need), and
  • uploaded current color photos of the existing conditions of the property. Photos should be at least 3 inches by 5 inches. We don’t accept photos copied on a copy machine, Polaroids, or screenshots from street view on Google Maps. Please use the application instructions to make sure your application has everything needed. 

If the files are too large to upload online, include a link to a file sharing service OR email them directly to the planner or architect.

You also need to pay an application fee. We take checks or money orders made payable to the City of Boston. The fees are:

  • $25 for minor changes, like new shutters, paint or maintenance
  • $50 for design changes, like signs or solar panels
  • $100 for major changes, like adding a new storefront or terrace, and
  • $250 for major construction, like a new building or development project.

If your project involves major construction that costs more than $500,000, the fee is one-half of one percent of the total cost of the project. The most you'll pay is $5,000.

There’s a $10 fee for interior work if you don't need a building permit from the Inspectional Services. If you project does need a building permit, the fee is $25.  

Step
3

Apply for work online

Apply for Design Review Online

Online App Landmarks

Submitting your application online requires a free account. Once you are signed up you will be able to:

  • submit multiple applications and track their progress
  • upload missing information
  • receive your approval letter quicker
  • review public comments related to your project (coming soon)
  • report violations (coming soon), and
  • pay the application fee (coming soon).

Once your application is completed online, submit payment by mail or directly to City Hall:

Boston Landmarks Commission / Environment Department:
Attn: (Planner or Architect Name)
1 City Hall Square, Room 709
Boston, MA 02201

Be sure to include the address where the work will take place on the memo section of the check. 

Our staff will contact you should we have additional requests, or if your application has been added to the hearing agenda. The agenda will include information about when and where to provide your presentation to the commission. You may have to present at more than one hearing if your project is large or complex.

Keep in mind

Contact:
Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square
Environment Dept. Room 709
Boston, MA 02201

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