Philadelphia Neighborhood Conservation: Using Public Policy to Protect Historic and Threatened Residential Neighborhoods
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Neighborhood conservation is largely dependent on a municipality’s zoning code. Many tools for protecting neighborhoods are embedded into the zoning code, and residents should be able to rely on them to provide a basic level of protection to neighborhood character. Local historic districts are common regulatory tools that are added as an overlay district and have regulations and standards that supplement those provided by the base zoning districts. However, to utilize this more restrictive tool, neighborhoods must qualify based on a variety of criteria related to the significance of the area and the amount of historical integrity that remains in the built fabric. How can Philadelphia, a city known for its wide array of distinctive, historic neighborhoods, protect its defining characteristic when the current zoning code fails to provide a basic level of protection? What are the alternatives for neighborhood conservation when a neighborhood does not qualify for a local historic district, or when it is not appropriate for or desired by low-income residential neighborhoods? In light of the new zoning code rewriting process, this thesis analyzes several recommendations that propose to improve the type of protection offered to neighborhoods. Additionally, it asks the question: where the necessity for flexibility and revitalization outweighs the stringent regulations of a historic district, does the City’s Neighborhood Conservation District program provide the balance between protection and flexibility?