The Near West Side neighborhood became a Conservation District — Bloomington’s 13th designated historic district, and the city’s largest — with the unanimous vote of the City Council on December 4, 2019.
The neighborhood’s designation was the culmination of almost two years’ work by a dedicated committee within the Near West Side Neighborhood Association, starting in early 2018. You can read up on its history here.
The main purpose of historic designation is to protect the unique cultural and architecture heritage of the neighborhood and preserve its permanent contribution to the character of Bloomington. Designation also gives the neighborhood a measure of control over the way it will develop in the future, and a defense against urbanization pressures.
In a Conservation District, a Certificate Of Appropriateness (COA) must be issued by the Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission (BHPC) before a permit is issued for, or work is begun on, any of the following:
- The demolition of any building;
- The moving of any building;
- Any new construction of a principal structure or accessory structure or structure subject to view from a public way; or
- A significant alteration or removal of a portion of a structure which, according to staff, jeopardizes the structure’s individual eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places OR its status as a contributing structure in the local district.
The role of the neighborhood association in the Conservation District is to evaluate each new application for a COA and advise the BHPC of its position on whether the application is consistent with the District’s historic preservation aims. For this purpose, the NWSNA has established a Design Review Committee, made up of residents elected annually to review these applications.
To determine whether to recommend approval of a COA, the Design Review Committee refers to written Design Guidelines generated specifically for the Near West Side.
[As of September 2020, the Design Guidelines are still in the process of being drafted, by a committee of neighborhood volunteers with guidance from city staff. Once the Guidelines are completed and have been approved by the BHPC, they will be posted on the NWSNA website, as well as the city’s website.]