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Frequently Asked Questions
Businesses Located in Historic Preservation Districts
Design guidelines help retain a District's historic flavor which attracts tourists and other customers. The Board for each Seattle preservation district that contains commercial buildings has adopted specific guidelines for signs. This helps ensure that the District retains the unique appeal that distinguishes it from other shopping districts or malls. Design guidelines also ensure that signs do not multiply and detract from the architectural features of the buildings and that individual signs neither damage a building when installed nor obscure visibility into street level restaurants or retail establishments.
Requirements vary by District, but in all cases signs must be compatible with the building on which they are installed. Although it may seem that a bigger or brighter sign is necessary to attract attention, that is not always the case. In fact, if all the businesses on a block put up showy signs, it becomes difficult for a customer to see any one sign because of the resulting visual clutter.
See the Internet homepage for the District where your business is located to learn more about specific requirements concerning a sign for your business.
If your planned repair work is "in-kind," meaning that the exact color will be repainted, you do not need approval since this type of project is considered to be routine maintenance and repair. However, if you plan to repaint a different color or make any other changes to your storefront, you need approval from the appropriate Board or Commission.
There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it. Protection is provided by review and approval of modifications to the exteriors and, in some cases, the interiors of buildings. In other cases, building use is monitored. Review guidelines and the process of applying for a Certificate of Approval to make a change vary depending on the district or landmark. Consult the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228 or the Internet homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.
The following changes require a Certificate of Approval before work can begin, even if no permit from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is required.
Before you make any change to a structure or site in a preservation district or to a landmark, contact the Historic Preservation Program so we can recommend next steps. You can reach us at (206) 684-0228. Specific requirements vary by district, but in general the approval process consists of these steps.
If unapproved work is in process, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will issue a "stop work" order at the request of the Historic Preservation Program. The business or property owner then must submit an application for approval to the appropriate board or commission. If the change is not approved, the owner may be required to undo the change and repair any damage to the historic building at his or her own expense. If a change is not made as represented and approved, a Certificate of Approval can be revoked. Contact the Historic Preservation Program before you start any project by calling (206) 684-0228.