How many historic districts are located within the City of Reading?
There five historic districts in the City of Reading: Callowhill, Prince, Centre Park, Penn’s Common and the Queen Anne District.
Are all of the City’s historic districts regulated?
No. Only the Callowhill, Prince, Centre Park and Penn’s Common Historic Districts are locally regulated by the Reading Board of Historical Architectural Review (HARB). The Queen Anne Historic District is Reading’s only National Register District and changes to structures located within its boundaries are not subject to review by the HARB.
What is the difference between a National Register Historic District and a locally regulated district?
A National Register Historic District is a district that has been designated by the National Park Service as worthy of preservation and therefore has been placed in the National Register of Historic Places, a federal list of historically significant resources. National Register districts may or may not be locally regulated but are afforded some protection by municipality oversight when federal funds are used in a project that may have a negative effect on historic resources. A locally regulated historic district is a district established by a municipality that may be listed in or is eligible to the National Register of Historic Places. A locally regulated district is governed and protected by the Historic District Ordinance which establishes a review board (HARB) to review changes to buildings. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places does not necessarily protect buildings within a historic district from being altered or demolished whereas the historical integrity of structures located within a local historic district are provided protection through the Historic District Ordinance
What are the rules and regulations for properties located within a historic district?
If a property is located within one of Reading’s four local historic districts, all proposed exterior changes that can be seen from a public right of way require review by the HARB. The Preservation Officer has been authorized to approve certain in kind building improvements and painting of exterior surfaces. Certain proposed improvements may require review by City Council as per the Historic District Ordinance. The first step in the HARB process is to complete a Certificate of Appropriateness application.
What is a Certificate of Appropriateness and how do I obtain one?
A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is required for all new construction and exterior alterations to structures in a historic district that can be seen from a public right of way, including those visible from public streets and alleys. The application must be completed to include all specifications for proposed exterior work (submit paint color samples, material samples, and detailed drawings illustrating finished dimensions for signs, new construction and alterations). Apply to the Historic Preservation Officer for a COA prior to obtaining any required building permits. A COA application is available from the City’s Historic Preservation Office, City Hall, 815 Washington Street, Room 3-03, Reading, PA, 19601.
When does the HARB hold its meetings?
The HARB meets every third Tuesday of the month and COA applications must be submitted to the Preservation Officer ten working days before the regularly scheduled meeting. The meetings are open to the public
Do I need to attend the HARB meeting?
Attendance is not mandatory but is strongly recommended. If a property owner or person representing the project is not in attendance and therefore cannot answer pertinent questions, the HARB may table its review until the owner can attend and more information on the project can be obtained.
How long does the HARB approval process take?
The HARB will review a project at the regular monthly meeting and in most cases will issue approval for a COA at the hearing. Once the COA is issued, a building permit may be obtained.