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Historic Preservation

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Fort Collins Landmarks

What Is A Historic Landmark?

A historic landmark is a site, building, structure or object officially recognized as important to the Fort Collins history by formal City Council action. The landmark may be important to our community for its association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history; for its association with the lives of significant people or groups; the property may embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, represent the work of a master, possesses high artistic values, or be a good example of a building or structure; or the property may have archeological importance.

What Is A Historic District?

A historic district is a specific group of homes and outbuildings united by past events or people, or by architecture and physical development, and which is officially recognized by City Council. Buildings within a district are described as being individually eligible, contributing, or non-contributing, depending upon when and how many alterations they have undergone:

  • Individually Eligible - Properties that have significance (historical and/or architectural) and substantially retain their exterior integrity can not only contribute to a historic district, but can apply for individual designation as a Fort Collins Landmark as well, if so desired.
  • Contributing - Buildings that would contribute to a district are architecturally and/or historically significant resources with some alterations that have notably altered its appearance while not seriously damaging the historic character of the building. These buildings and structures retain enough exterior integrity to contribute to a group of similar resources (a district) but are not typically eligible for landmark designation on their own.
  • Non-contributing - Buildings or structures with little or no historical or architectural significance, or that have endured numerous exterior changes, or both, are not eligible for landmark designation. Although they are located within a historic district, they do not contribute to the historic nature of the district.

What Are The Benefits And Obligations Of Landmark Designation?

  • Landmark designation does not change the use of your property, which is established by its zone district.
  • Designation does not require any alterations or changes to be made.
  • Landmark designation provides financial benefits to designated residential properties including the Design Assistance Program and the Landmark Rehabilitation 0% Interest Loan Program.
  • Owners of designated properties receive free, no-obligation consultations with architects, preservation contractors, structural engineers, and designers, on any issues affecting your historic property, from lead paint, to stained glass windows, to options for a failing foundation.
  • Landmark designation can provide for greater flexibility in meeting building codes and development requirements.
  • Designation generally results in increased property values by providing an element of predictability and by ensuring that your neighbors do not affect your property value by dramatically altering the character of their properties.
  • Landmark designation does require the review of exterior alterations, demolition and new construction, using the national Secretary of the Interior's Standards to ensure compatibility. Nearly all residential work fits under the Standards for Rehabilitation, which is defined as "the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values." Read more...
  • The benefits and obligations of landmark designation stay with the property when it is sold.

What If My Building Or Structure Is Non-Contributing To The District?

Buildings and structures that are non-contributing are able to take advantage of many of the same benefits as individually eligible and contributing properties. Exterior alterations, demolition and new construction to non-contributing buildings and properties are still reviewed for their affect upon the other properties within the District.

How Is Proposed Exterior Work On Landmark Buildings Reviewed?

Depending upon the extent of the work proposed, either City staff or the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) reviews the proposed design. Staff consists of Historic Preservation Planners and the Director of Community Development and Neighborhood Services. The LPC consists of nine members, appointed by City Council, with interest or experience in historic preservation or related fields. The criteria for approval are found in Chapter 14. Most work falls under the Standards for Rehabilitation. While most alterations and additions are readily approved, the Standards could affect the size and design of proposed work.

Is Interior Work Reviewed?

Work on the interior is reviewed only if the owner is asking for financial incentives for that work.

How Long Does The Review Take?

LPC review occurs at its Regular Meetings (2nd Wednesday of each month); staff reviews are generally quick, usually taking only a few days.

How Does Designation Affect Resale Value? Will My Property Taxes Increase?

Property taxes reflect property value, and designated properties typically increase in value. An example is the increased valuation of the homes in the Sheely Drive Neighborhood Historic District, designated as a Landmark District in 2000. Additionally, studies of historic districts in Denver, Durango, and Fort Collins have found that property values remained the same or increased after designation. This trend is attributed to the fact that the future owners also qualify for the financial incentives; the perception that designated properties are better maintained; the appeal of owning a recognized historic landmark; and the assurance of predictability that design review offers.

What Impact Does Designation Have On Construction?

  • Are additions and alterations allowed? Yes, as long as they are approved. While some new construction may not qualify for the financial programs, it can still be allowed. Nearly all residential work fits under the Secretary of the Interior's Standard of Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is defined as "the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values."
  • Am I required to make changes? No, there is no requirement that owners do work on their building, unless it is in danger of becoming a hazard or significant architectural features are in danger of being lost - what is commonly called "demolition by neglect." If this is the case, the city has a minimum maintenance requirement, which requires that buildings meet building code standards.
  • What about color? Paint colors are reviewed, but in a streamlined process. This process consists of binders filled with a very large variety of paint materials and palettes. If the colors you want are in the binder, and are not very unusual such as polka dots or all black, then the color is approved by staff. If you want polka dots, then the decision would be referred to the LPC.
  • What if I want to tear down my house and build a new one? If your house was determined to be contributing to the district, it is not likely that the LPC would approve its being torn down without a very good reason.
  • What if it is damaged in a fire or flood? If the building is condemned, then it may be demolished without any historic preservation review. If it is damaged extensively, the LPC would consider how much of the historic building would remain after repairs. If substantial repairs are needed, the building's historic integrity of materials, design, workmanship, feeling and association could be affected, and the building's historic value would be lost. If that's the case, it is the owner's decision to repair or build new.
  • Can the financial incentives be used to increase square footage? Yes. The incentives can apply to work modifying, or rehabilitating, already existing space, such as finishing an attic or basement, or reconfiguring rooms. While most of the incentives do not go towards "adding on" square footage, the State Tax Credits for Historic Preservation can be used to add a considerable amount of usable square footage through paying for up to 25% of the costs of finishing or renovating a basement or attic.
  • Will this affect zoning? Are there different building codes? Landmark designation does not change zoning or building codes except to add greater flexibility, through exceptions for designated buildings in the International Building Codes, and the ability for designated properties to utilize the Uniform Codes for Building Conservation.
  • Are landscaping projects affected by historic designation? It depends. Only landscaping projects that would significantly or "permanently" change the appearance of the property would typically be reviewed, at either the administrative (staff) level or by the Commission. Examples of a change that could need Commission review would be adding a structure, such as a greenhouse; building a front driveway where one never existed, or building large berms in the front yard that hide a portion of the house. Work that would typically be reviewed at the administrative (staff) level would be adding a fence, or a driveway in the rear yard. Examples of work that typically does not need review are digging up the back yard for a garden, adding decorative stepping stones, planting or removing trees or shrubs, and building raised flower beds or planter boxes.
  • What is Interim Control? Interim control is a period of time during which a hold is placed on building permits for demolition, alterations or construction on properties under considered for landmark designation. This delay only affects work requiring a building permit and prevents property owners from inadvertently disqualifying themselves from incentive programs while waiting for designation. The hold ends with Council's decision on the designation or after 180 days, whichever occurs first.
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For more information:

Maren Bzdek, Historic Preservation Planner