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The Historic Districts Coalition is an informal alliance of organizations and individuals representing Washington, D.C.’s historic districts—those that have been designated under the provisions of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 (D.C. Public Law 2-144)—as well as others interested in historic preservation, including residents of undesignated neighborhoods and representatives of neighborhood organizations, historic preservation organizations, and preservation-related businesses. From the outset, the Coalition’s focus has been on issues of importance to historic districts, and the rationale underlying its operation is that the collective strength of a group of neighborhood historic preservation organizations carries greater weight and is more effective in articulating positions and needs than that of single voices from individual neighborhood groups working separately. Representatives of organizations with similar missions, including the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, the DC Preservation League (DCPL), and Preservation Action, have also been Coalition participants.
History and Operation
The group began as the Coalition for Greater Preservation Enforcement, formed during the mid-1990s by DCPL’s Education Committee. One of the first successes was achieving two new positions for Historic Preservation Inspectors in the city’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO). The Coalition operates primarily as a “virtual” organization, with advocacy positions developed via electronic communications among participants and delivered typically through testimony before the DC Council, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and other agencies, as well as through letters to city officials. For the past several years, the group has held two to four meetings annually, providing opportunities for networking among participants and invited guests and for hearing directly from city officials, including the Chair of HPRB, the State Historic Preservation Officer, the director of the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, and the Chair of the DC Council. Such meetings will continue based on expressions of interest from participants.
In its prior iteration, the Coalition organized a forum of candidates for Chair of the DC Council; established (with the HPO) a task force of relevant city agencies and private companies to address problems associated with installation of large utility boxes on front facades in historic districts; and sponsored a symposium on Contemporary and Compatible Architecture in Historic Districts. Coalition activities include:
- Advocacy before the DC Council, HPRB, HPO, and other DC government agencies
- Encouragement of enforcement by HPO staff within DC’s historic districts
- Educational programming and outreach activities directed at furthering historic preservation in DC
There are over 30 residential DC historic districts included on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. Some are home to neighborhood-based historic preservation organizations, such as stand-alone nonprofits, committees of citizen’s and civic associations, or committees sponsored by local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC’s), as indicated below.
- Dupont Circle Conservancy
- Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets (email)
- Zoning, Preservation, and Development (ZPD) Committee
- Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association