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How we review design changes in historic districts

How we review design changes in historic districts

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

The design review process

The Historic District Commissions help protect the unique architecture and design of Boston's neighborhoods. Each district in Boston has different rules for building and making other changes. Each commission meets once every month.

Preservation planners review projects 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 has to 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 can contact the local commission early to help you through the process. You can find the forms you need on each district’s website.

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

  • hold a hearing, which you may or may not have to attend (they’ll have more than one hearing if your project is big)
  • 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
Boston, MA 02201
United States