Modern Homes. Historic Neighborhoods.

03/29/2018 12:00 PM by

When you want to live in a historic neighborhood, but you’d like it better in a modern house*.

There was an interesting debate in our Instagram account which inspired us to find out more about how these modern homes make it into historic neighborhoods like ours.

What does CAR do?
The Richmond Commission of Architectural Review (CAR) was established by City Council in 1957. The CAR is the city’s official historic preservation body and is charged with reviewing all exterior changes to structures within the city’s Old and Historic Districts and issuing Certificates of Appropriateness for those projects that it deems to be appropriate.

CAR bases all its decisions generally on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and New Construction; and specifically on the Richmond Old & Historic Districts Handbook and Design Review Guidelines (14 MB), adopted in 1999.

Regulations for building in a historic neighborhood

New construction in a historic district is possible. You can clearly see it driving around parts of the neighborhood. However, construction of new homes is governed by detailed and comprehensive guidelines that focus on exterior design and other issues. While we won’t get into the massive amount of information in regards to this, the Design Guidelines section of the Richmond Old and Historic Handbooks sums it up for us:

All new residential and commercial construction, whether in the form of additions or entire buildings, should be compatible with the historic features that characterize their setting and context. To protect the context of the surrounding historic district, new construction should reference the materials, features, size, scale, proportions, and massing of the existing historic building or buildings in its setting. However, compatibility does not mean duplicating the existing buildings or environment. In order to avoid creating a false sense of history, new construction should also be discernible from the old. Perhaps the best way to think about a compatible new building (or addition) is that it should be a good neighbor; one that enhances the character of the existing district and respects its historic context, rather than being an exact (and misleading) reproduction of another building.

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So what do you think? A post on IG led to some interesting debate. If you can’t access Instagram, some of the highlights below:

We love the diversity of this neighborhood house and all.

I’ll have to disagree there on that one. It’s NOT the modern whatever that makes this neighborhood. It’s the history and the historic houses that are over a hundred years old. It’s the stories they tell about our city and it’s past. Modern crap can’t do that. No offense. Historic is always better.

The east end needs rebuilding and infill, not just rehab. I’d rather people build modern houses with modern materials than older-style houses with brick and steel.

This city is very historic from the sidewalks to the houses, we need to keep it like that.

Completely disrupts the neighborhood. But there’s s—y ’90s suburban vinyl infill already. So I guess thanks CAR.

*Title inspired by reddit/rva post

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