Homeowner Help

If you live in an historic house you are probably familiar with plaster, and with plaster repair. But what is different about living in an historic district, and what do you need to know about living on Summit Avenue? All of Summit Avenue is within the designated boundaries of a preservation district. Being part of an historic preservation district entitles homeowners to protections, but also requires a more stringent review process. This section is meant to assist homeowners in planning for repairs and renovation.

In addition to any required permits and reviews that may be required, the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) will evaluate your alteration or repair. The HPC has many useful forms available on their website: http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=1565/, including planning checklists, guidelines, and much more.

Summit Avenue east of Lexington Parkway is included in the Historic Hill District (map) and Summit west of Lexington is within the Summit Avenue West District (map). Click on the links to be redirected to the guidelines for each district.

repair & renovation FAQs

SARPA would like to acknowledge the assistance of Amy Spong in creating this section. The following FAQs are compiled from the City of St Paul's Heritage Preservation (HPC) publications and from direct questioning.

What is the Heritage Preservation Commission?
The St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) was created in 1976. The thirteen citizen board is charged with protecting the city's historic resources. The duties of the HPC include evaluating the architectural and historical significance of buildings and districts, recommending buildings and districts to the city council for designation, and reviewing proposed alterations to designated properties.

If my building is located in a historic district do I need the Commission's approval to make changes?
Every building within an historic district is protected under the city's heritage preservation ordinance. If you want to make exterior alterations to your building (with the exception of minor alterations mentioned below), you must obtain HPC approval before beginning the work. Once the proposal is reviewed by the HPC and found to be consistent with the character of the district you will be issued approval to proceed with the work.

Are there any types of work that do not require HPC approval?
Yes. Generally, all interior changes and ordinary exterior repairs such as removing small amounts of painted graffiti, do not require HPC approval. In addition, the HPC staff may approve minor exterior alterations that are executed with the same type of materials or methods. The HPC staff can tell you whether HPC approval is needed for the type of work you are considering.

Will historic district designation prevent alterations and new construction?
No. Historic designation does not "freeze" a building or an area. The goal of designation is not to prevent change, but guide it. Alterations, demolition, and new construction continue to take place, but the HPC must first review the proposed changes for compatibility with the historic character of the district.

Can the HPC make me restore my building to the way it looked when built?
No. The HPC reviews proposed alterations. It cannot require you to restore your building to its original appearance. For example, if at the time of designation your building had a modern entrance, the HPC cannot make you restore the original entrance. However, if you propose additional major changes to the entrance, the HPC would review these for consistency with the historic character of the building.

Does tree planting and landscaping require HPC approval?

No, however, hardscaping does require approval. That is retaining walls, fencing, pergolas, concrete work. Plantings are not reviewed, however, our guidelines do talk about plantings in the front yards. They should be low and visually open rather than a solid hedge.

Does re-paving a driveway or moving a sidewalk require HPC approval?

Yes. Hardscaping (e.g. concrete work) requires HPC approval.

Where can I get more information?
The HPC office is located in the Department of Safety and Inspections office, 8 E. Fourth Street, Suite 200. The HPC staff is happy to answer questions you may have about historic preservation. Lists of locally designated buildings are available upon request. HPC meetings and public hearings are held monthly in St. Paul City Hall, Room 40. The public is welcome to attend. The dates and times of meetings are available by calling the HPC staff at (651) 266 - 9078.
St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission
Suite 200, Commerce Building
8 E. Fourth Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101
Phone: (651) 266 - 9078

Fax: (651) 266 - 9124