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How we review design changes in historic districts

Boston’s nine local Historic District Commissions review projects that involve properties within district boundaries. Learn more about the process.

The design review process

In the same way the Boston Landmarks Commission protects individual Landmarks, the Historic District Commissions help protect the unique character of landmarked Boston neighborhoods. Each district in Boston has different rules about proposed changes. Each commission meets once every month.

Preservation planners review proposed projects in their districts to make sure they meet local guidelines. We don't have say over zoning laws, or use and occupancy. Projects with zoning issues have to go through the Zoning Board of Appeal instead.


Anyone who wants to make changes to a property in a historic district must go through the review process. You’ll have to file an application with the local commission. If you start building without their approval, you'll get a violation. We recommend that you contact staff for the district commission early to help you through the process. You can find the forms you need on each district’s webpage.

After you file your application with the local historic commission, they will:

  • hold a hearing, which you may or may not have to attend (there may be more than one hearing for a large project)
  • review your plans and have a vote
  • send you a letter with their decision and any steps you need to take, and
  • issue you a Certificate of Appropriateness if they approve your plans.
Still have questions? Contact:
Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square
Room 709 Environment Dept.
Boston, MA 02201
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