Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Heritage Preservation Commission?

The Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) was created in 1976. The 13-member, mayor-appointed 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.

How many historic properties are there in St. Paul?

More than 75 individual properties and nine historic districts have been locally designated in Saint Paul. Designated properties include a variety of types and styles including houses, churches, warehouses, offices, commercial properties, and parks.  A total of approximately 2,500 sites are designated within Saint Paul.

What are the criteria for historic designation?

The HPC considers the following criteria in determining whether an individual building or district is worthy of historic designation in Saint Paul:

  1. The properties’ character, interest or value is part of the heritage or cultural characteristics of the city of Saint Paul, State of Minnesota, or the United States.
  2. The properties’ location is the site of a significant historic event.
  3. The properties are identifiable with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the culture and development of the City of Saint Paul.
  4. The properties exhibit a distinguishing characteristic of an architectural or engineering specimen.
  5. The properties are identifiable as the work of an architect, engineer, or master builder whose individual work has influenced the development of Saint Paul.
  6. The properties embody elements of architectural or engineering design, detail, materials or craftsmanship which represents a significant architectural or engineering innovation.
  7. The properties’ unique location or physical characteristic is established and familiar in the neighborhoods or communities of the City of Saint Paul.

My building is part of a local historic district. What does this mean?

Local historic district designation is a form of protection for historic properties. Through designation, the city has determined that properties within the district have special historical significance and that your building is an important part of Saint Paul’s heritage worthy of protection from inappropriate changes or destruction.

If my building is located in a historic district do I need the Commission’s approval to make changes?

Every building within a historic district is protected under the Saint Paul’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 does 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. Heritage Preservation staff can tell you whether HPC approval is needed for the type of work you are considering.

Does 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.

Why does the HPC review new construction on vacant lots?

The HPC reviews proposals for new construction to ensure that the new building or structure is consistent with the scale and character of the historic district and will not detract from the special qualities of surrounding buildings.

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.