The Detroit Historic District Commission is a city agency that was formed by Detroit Ordinance 161-H in 1976. Its purpose is to ensure the preservation of historically and culturally significant areas of the City which are designated by the City Council as Historic Districts. The Commission is made up of seven Detroit residents who are appointed by the Mayor. These dedicated volunteers are generally residents of historic districts and represent such professions as architects and realtors. The Commission staff is located within the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.
It is the Commission's job to ensure that changes proposed in historic districts preserve important historic characteristics and are compatible with the historic buildings. This is achieved through the city's building permit process. When proposing a change to the exterior of a property such as landscaping, paint colors, windows, or doors the homeowner or contractor submits an application for building permit to the Commission for review. If the work is appropriate the Commission, or in some instances the Commission's staff will issue a certificate of appropriateness which allows the Buildings and Safety Engineering Department to issue a building permit.
If the proposed work is not appropriate the Commission will deny the application but will always offer suggestions on how to change the scope of work so it is appropriate. The Buildings and Safety Engineering Department will not issue a permit if the work has been denied.
In addition to reviewing applications for building permits the Commission investigates cases of demolition by neglect, administers facade easements, comments on the designation of proposed historic districts, and comments on city projects.