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Remodeling Question - Historic District


Treschark

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I apologize if this has been discussed before (and I assume it has).

I live in a smallish 1100 square foot bungalow in one of the historic districts. The house is designated as a contributing property. With baby no. 2 on the way, we want to expand the house, and the initial thought was to add a second story. Unfortunately, we are not fans of the camelback look which is the suggested expansion method in the city ordinances.

Does anyone have experience in modifying the front of a home in a historic district (in a way that is consistent with the look of the property and the historic and traditional look of the neighborhood)? Or is that something that cannot be accomplished in light of the historic district ordinance?

Any information is appreciated.

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I apologize if this has been discussed before (and I assume it has).

I live in a smallish 1100 square foot bungalow in one of the historic districts. The house is designated as a contributing property. With baby no. 2 on the way, we want to expand the house, and the initial thought was to add a second story. Unfortunately, we are not fans of the camelback look which is the suggested expansion method in the city ordinances.

Does anyone have experience in modifying the front of a home in a historic district (in a way that is consistent with the look of the property and the historic and traditional look of the neighborhood)? Or is that something that cannot be accomplished in light of the historic district ordinance?

Any information is appreciated.

 

</sarcasm on>Essentially, the proponents of the Historic District guidelines think you should leave The Heights and move to a suburb, where your family size would be more appropriate. This will prevent the destruction and ruination of yet another museum quality building in the Historic District, since it is far more important to preserve the looks and architecture of the area than it is for people to actually be able to live there in an attractive house with all the additions well integrated and built at a reasonable cost. </sarcasm off>

 

The guidelines are here https://www.houstontx.gov/planning/HistoricPres/HistoricPreservationManual/index.htmland overall, your chances of getting to modify the front are slim. Be prepared to spend a lot more money than expected, and for the overall process to take far longer than expected or desired. The HAHC meets once a month to consider applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness, deadlines for applying for approval are found at http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/Commissions/commiss_hahc.html but I don't know if those deadlines include the time for Planning staff to consider your application.

 

Here's the guidelines for second story additions from https://www.houstontx.gov/planning/HistoricPres/HistoricPreservationManual/shallapprove.html :

 

Second story additions (often called Camelbacks) must meet all of the following standards:

  1. Second story additions (often called Camelbacks) must meet all of the following standards:

    Is constructed on top of a one-story structure; and

  2. Does not extend outside the footprint of the existing structure; and
  3. Is set back from the front wall of the existing structure at least half the distance between the front wall of the existing structure and the farthest point of the rear of the existing structure (for example, if the existing structure measures 80 feet between those points, the addition must be set back at least 40 feet); and
  4. Has a plate height (distance from the subfloor of the building to the top of the framed wall) that does not exceed the plate height of the story beneath the proposed addition; and
  5. Has a roof pitch that is less than or equal to the existing structure; and
  6. Will not affect the structural integrity of the existing structure, as confirmed in writing by a structural engineer licensed by the state of Texas; and
  7. Is not constructed on a building that has had an addition approved under this chapter.
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I hate to break it to you, but you'll have quite the battle to change up the front of the house. We were in the same spot in 2006 before theHD was in place. We expanded our 1100' bungalow to 2350', all on one story, plus a two-car garage. We're on a 6,600' lot which helped make it possible. We then went back after the HD was in place and got the COA approval and tax benefit. I think you could still get something like this done in this environment. Changing the front is the hard part. Try to go back and widen if you can.

My strong suggestion is to hire an architect that has a ton of experience dealing with the HD. It will save you headaches, and give you the best shot at approvals. The right firm will meet with the HD staff very early in the process with a few design ideas and get their support.

We recently went through the HD process for another home (gluttons!) and were successful on an expansion, but we had the right architect and had staff support which is key. It will likely take you 6 months to get drawings done and HAHC approvals, and that is aggressive. It is not impossible, but you will need to be patient and flexible.

Best of luck.

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Thanks for this depressing information! It's hard to believe that the city council approved an ordinance that seeming intends to lock a neighborhood in time. Wow, it is really offending my sense of justice. It almost makes me wish that, instead of spending a ton of money to rehabilitate our distressed bungalow when we bought it, we had just bulldozed the house in 2007.

I suppose the solution is to work to liberalize the ordinance through the city council. And in the meantime try to obtain approval or a variance. It's too bad we don't have a million dollars to just go out and buy a large home in the neighborhood, which I suppose is the other solution.

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There is a meeting this week to discuss the pending updated guidelines....details below. Sounds like a perfect way to get a little up to speed.

Tuesday, February 16

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

1819 Heights Blvd., Houston 77008

5:30-7:30 p.m.

Www.houstonplanning.com

Meeting to focus on "massing"

Project manager Steph McDougal will provide an update on the project, then lead attendees in a conversation about a topic that many people find confusing: "massing." Members of the public will have the opportunity to share feedback and ask questions. Members of the City's Preservation Planning staff will also be on hand.

Read the second issue of heights forward, the monthly project newsletter, online. Articles include:

Project News and Updates

Explain That Term: Massing

Spotlight on Architectural Styles: Craftsman Bungalow

History of Houston Heights, 1890-1910

Did You Know? Demolition data from 2004-2015

Meet Your Commissioners

Get Involved

Did you miss an earlier meeting? Want to find out what happened or share information? A meeting report and all meeting materials are available online.

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