The City of Colorado Springs has a rich history that is able to be seen in many different parts of town. Established by General William J. Palmer in 1871 as “The Fountain Colony,” the town would later change its name to “Colorado Springs” in order to market itself as a resort destination. Over the next hundred and fifty years, the town would change and grow vastly, altering its landscape. For more information about the history of Colorado Springs, consult the Historic Preservation Plan, available on the Land Use Review internet site under “Historic Preservation.”
As stated in the Historic Preservation Plan, “Our buildings, sculptures, street patterns and parks are the tangible elements which help to define the individuality of Colorado Springs, and thus provide the context for understanding our heritage. These physical features are unique to our past; they cannot be duplicated. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.”
While some see preservation as a goal to freeze time, never allowing for change, most preservationists understand that the usage of buildings evolves through time. Instead of discouraging change outright, preservationists encourage the changes to be carried out in ways that are historically compatible. Preservationists balance past and future.
What Makes a Property Historic?
Properties are classified as historic resources when the following criteria are met:
A. The property has a special character or special historic or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the City, State, Nation, or
B. The property is where any event of major historic significance with a measurable effect upon society took place, or
C. The property is closely identified with a person or group of people who have had some measurable influence on society, or
D. The property exemplifies the broad cultural, political, economic or social heritage of the community, or
E. The property faithfully portrays the environment of a group of people in an era of history characterized by a distinctive architectural style or which embodies those distinguishing characteristics of an architecturally recognized detail or which is the work of an architect or builder whose individual work has influenced the development of the City, or
F. The property, because of being a part of or related to a park, square, or other distinctive area should be developed or preserved according to a plan based upon its historic, cultural, or architectural significance, or
G. The property, due to the location or singular physical characteristic, represents an established, familiar and significant visual feature of the neighborhoodA geographic sub-area within the city that contains but is not limited to residential land uses. The extent of a neighborhood is variable and may be defined by tradition, organizational boundaries, period of building and development, or subdivision patterns. Neighborhood boundaries may include such features as major streets or other physical elements., community or City, and
H. The property is officially zoned historic preservation overlay pursuant to the provisions of this Zoning Code.
In order to protect and preserve the town’s unique and varied history, the City of Colorado Springs employs overlay zoning. Properties zoned with the Historic Preservation (HP) Overlay are required to undergo additional review prior to any construction or modification.
Property owners apply for a Historic Preservation General Application and specify the changes they wish to make. This Application is reviewed and decided by the Colorado Springs Historic Preservation Board. After the Board has approved the proposed work, the property owner is then free to obtain a building permit. For more information on how to apply for a General Application, consult the Overlay Zoning Page.
The State and National Registers of Historic Places
In addition to overlay zoning, properties may also be listed on the State and/or National Registers of Historic Places. Properties must meet specific criteria to be listed but are not subject to review by the Historic Preservation Board unless also overlay-zoned.
To access the State Register of Historic Places, visit the Colorado State Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP). The National Register of Historic Places is kept by the National Park Service.
The Historic Preservation Board
The Historic Preservation Board is a seven-member board appointed by City Council to promote historic preservation and to ensure the built environment of Colorado Springs is preserved. In addition to reviewing requests for Reports of Acceptability, the Board provides information and education on preservation topics and advises the City Council on matters related to preservation.
The seven members are appointed for three-year terms and may only serve two consecutive terms. To learn more about the Board, visit the Board’s homepage.
Rehabilitation and restoration work on historic properties must comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Because the work is oftentimes more expensive than new construction or other types of restoration, the work may be eligible for Colorado State Income Tax credit, which is at this time administered by the OAHP in Denver. To learn more about the tax credit program, visit the OAHP’s website listed above.
Historic Buildings: The Original “Green”
As the sustainability movement gains momentum, the role of historic buildings in sustainability is often overlooked and more attention is paid to new buildings that are designed in conformance with strict sustainable principles. Historic buildings, however, have a lot to add to community sustainability and can be retrofitted to match sustainable performance standards required of new buildings.
There is a saying in the preservation community: “The greenest building is the one that is already built.” By rehabilitating and reusing historic buildings construction waste is greatly diminished, the demand for new materials is lessened, and history is preserved.