CY Considers Landmarks District Status

On Thursday, July 23rd, a number of CY residents gathered at our offices to discuss becoming an official Landmarks district. This is a city-level designation that goes beyond the national historic registry and has implications for all property owners within a specific area. The purpose of the Memphis Landmarks Commission is to:

  1. Promote the educational and cultural welfare of the people of Memphis
  2. Preserve and protect structures of historical and architectural value
  3. Ensure compatibility and maintain the aesthetic atmosphere of historic districts
  4. Foster civic beauty and community pride
  5. Stabilize and improve property values
  6. Enhance the experience of visitors

While this idea was previously considered several years ago, new changes in neighborhood development have some residents concerned with maintaining our historic character. Currently, there is little to no way for residents to have a say in infill and new business structures. As long as developers follow the legal requirements of the Unified Development Code and the Midtown District Overlay, there is no mechanism for residents to directly impact what is built in their neighborhood. Landmarks districts, however, have an additional set of guidelines for developers and require that they procure an additional permit (called a Certificate of Appropriateness) before building can begin. These guidelines are set by the specific neighborhood and can be as minimal or as complex as that neighborhood desires. These guidelines are also voted on by the entire community in question before being accepted and adopted by the Memphis Landmarks Commission. For examples of these plans and more specific information on Landmarks Districts, visit their site here.

After hearing this information, residents had a number of concerns including:

  • Guidelines that are too stringent and oppressive to maintain the eclectic character of the neighborhood (ex. regulating paint color on houses)
  • Maintaining a high level of community input throughout the creation of these guidelines
  • Creating more economic barriers for property owners to fix properties in need
  • Ensuring that voting for the final guidelines is representative of community feeling
  • Inclusion of commercial and residential property guidelines

At the end of the meeting, several residents volunteered to form a Landmarks committee that would review these concerns and consider the next steps in the process. This committee will begin meeting soon and all are welcome to join. If you are interested in working with this group, please send your information to info@cooperyoung.org or call us at 901-272-2922.