Weighting Historic Designation: Problems in Democracy Town
Eckington is one of many rapidly changing communities in Washington DC, with over 4120 residents , a number of which are low-income or elderly and/or disabled. Rapid changes in both the economic and racial composition of the neighborhood has stoked fears of gentrification as well as unbridled development, with its rushed and often ugly buildings. Historic Designation seems like a sensible response to the rapid pace of change.
Historic Designation, aiming to preserve the historic and cultural resources of the community, is in many ways a very appealing concept. But its implications are far-reaching and often unconditional. With greater oversight over developers and preservation of character, comes strict limits on homeowner rights and financial burdens on low-income households.
There is a broad set of pros and cons worthy of community discussion, including:
DC’s procedures for setting neighborhood Historic Designation status are at best lacking. Requiring only that a community group research neighborhood history, perform outreach, apply for designation, and defend its position in front of a seven- to nine-person Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). How the community group and the HPRB determine whether or not to proceed is up to them.