Landmarks design review process
The Boston Landmarks Commission preserves landmarked historic properties in the City. We do this by reviewing proposals that involve any type of physical change to designated properties. Proposed changes can include but are not limited to: roof decks, additions, window replacement, general repairs, painting, masonry cleaning or repointing, signage, awnings, new balconies, porches, decks, stairs, etc. The nine historic district commissions follow the same design review process, guided by their individual guidelines. Proposals that respect landmarks' guidelines can be approved more quickly, but commissioners and staff will work with applicants to refine any proposed changes. The BLC also reviews proposals for properties under review or awaiting a decision on a landmark designation. The commission must approve all changes before work can start on your project.
WORK THAT NEEDS APPROVAL
The Commission reviews proposed changes to design, materials, or appearance of the exterior. Interior changes usually don't need approval unless the inside of the property is landmarked. Check this list for interior designations. There is some interior work that is actually exterior - for example window replacement, new HVAC equipment, and vents are all exterior changes related to interior work.
All design review starts with a complete application. Please refer to the guidelines for the landmarked property. All landmarked properties in Boston, including the historic districts, have a study report with specific design standards. You can find the study report for any designated landmark on our publications page. Your project has a better chance of commission approval if it follows the guidelines.
If you are interested in finding out about guidelines for a pending landmark (property awaiting a decision on designation), please contact us. You can call 617-635-3850, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you the relevant report if available.
After we get your complete application, staff will decide if your project is exempt from review. If the project must be approved by the Commission, our staff will help coordinate your presentation. You may have to attend one or more public hearings, depending on your project's scope. Once your project meets the guidelines and is approved by the Commission, staff sends you a Certificate of Design Approval.
Design review hearings are held once per month, all are public. Please see the historic districts for each commission's monthly hearing schedule. BLC's design review hearings are on the fourth Tuesday of every month. All hearings are public, anyone can attend a hearing and give their opinion. If you plan to submit an application, you must make sure a complete application is submitted as early as possible in the process.
Complete applications, as determined by staff and received fifteen business days before the hearing date, will be added to an agenda. The design review process and application form are the same for the historic district commissions, but the districts' hearing schedules differ. BLC hearings are also held on the second Tuesday of each month to address non-design review agenda items such as Article 85 Demolition Review hearings.
Ready to get started? Find out how to file an application for a design review.Related information: