Home Improvements


Guidelines for Existing Structures and New Construction


Home Improvement and business development initiatives that focus on the restoration of historic structures in the commercial and residential sectors of Mount Vernon have been the catalyst for regeneration. Over the past several years, the neighborhood has witnessed unprecedented growth in its residential sector due in part to the City's and State's progressive historic tax credit programs, which have generated an unprecedented increase in the neighborhood's home ownership rate.


Mount Vernon's commercial market has also taken advantage of these tax credit incentives to stimulate growth along Charles Street, the neighborhood's main street. Underutilized buildings haven been restored into vibrant mixed-use structures with street level retail and residential units on the floors above.


The Mount Vernon neighborhood is a Baltimore City Historic District and is governed by the 2005 Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Plan. Mount Vernon was the City's first historic district, and is undeniably Baltimore's most historic, not only for the built environment, but also for the many important figures that have resided in the neighborhood.


To safeguard the architectural significance of this area, Baltimore City's Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation (CHAP) has established guidelines governing all substantive changes to the exterior of existing structures in the district, as well as created guidelines for new construction. Both types of work must go through the CHAP process, as outlined below, before work commences.


Implementation and Process for Rehabilitation of Historic Structures in Mount Vernon

 

Proposed Alterations to Existing Structures:

All intended exterior changes that modify either the color or form of an historic structure in any way must be approved by both the MVBA Architectural Review Committee (arc@mvba.org) and CHAP before any work begins. Residential and commercial property owners are encouraged to contact CHAP for their "Historic Preservation Guidelines" brochure to become familiar with the types of renovation initiatives the guidelines govern. The brochure is also available online here.

CHAP's "Historic Preservation Guidelines" addresses alterations such as:

  • Exterior painting (and paint color)
  • Cleaning and repair of masonry
  • Substantial repair or replacement of elements such as columns, cornices, doors and windows (IMPORTANT: replacement of original windows and doors are rarely approved when repair is possible, and if window replacements are to be proposed, vinyl windows are NEVER allowed either on the front or rear of a building with sightlines from a public right-of-way)
  • Additions

CHAP's guidelines also regulate other items such as:

  • Placement and design of fences
  • Visibility of external heating and cooling systems
  • Storm windows and doors
  • Size and design of signage and awnings

Failure to comply with these procedures can result in fines from the City of up to $1,000 per day and can result in a legal order to return the property to its previous state. Property owners are legally responsible for changes made by tenants.


New Construction:

All new construction (other than additions to existing structures) in Mount Vernon is guided by the 2006 Revision 2 Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Plan. An integral component of this plan is the height limits governing the construction of new buildings in the district, click here to view height map. In addition, CHAP created the Mount Vernon: Guidelines for New Construction to shape the development of planned new construction By addressing issues of context and scale, and the use of materials, these guidelines offer residents and developers a roadmap to follow in planning for new construction in the area, and are the basis by which projects are judged as appropriate for the district by the MVBA Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and CHAP.

 

The CHAP Process:

Restoration and Repair Work:

For minor work, such as cleaning, painting, repairing or replacing existing elements, including windows, one should contact MVBA's Architectural Review Committee (arc@mvba.org with your address in the subject line) with the following materials:

  • Completed CHAP Notice-to-Proceed form outlining the scope of work (form available here)
  • Photographs of structure, including details of any existing elements under consideration for alteration/replacement
  • Samples of paint chips, and or cut sheets for all materials to be used.

Upon approval by the MVBA's Architectural Review Committee, the CHAP Notice-to-Proceed form will be returned to the owner who takes the signed form to CHAP for their approval process. This aspect of the approval process can be accomplished in approximately a half day visit to CHAP and the Office of Building Permits (410-396-3360 located at 417 East Fayette Street), but one should call CHAP first to ensure that someone will be present to approve the forms. The appropriate permit fees are paid at this time.


Major Renovations/Additions and New Construction:

For proposed renovations or additions beyond what is stated above or for new construction one should contact the chair of MVBA's Architectural Review Committee (ARC) at arc@mvba.org (with your address in the subject line). Often, such major projects initially seek conceptual project approval, after which (based on feedback from the MVBA ARC and CHAP) the project returns for final approval.


Projects of this scope will be required to present the proposed project in person to the MVBA Architectural Review Committee, which meets on the last Tuesday of every month. These projects take longer for CHAP to approve, and are typically placed before the entire CHAP commission, which meets once a month (several weeks after the MVBA ARC meeting). This process takes time and property owners should plan accordingly.



 


Conceptual Approval:

To present a project for conceptual approval the owner/developer/ architect should provide the following items:

  • Existing photographs of the building or site in context     
  • Site plan, major building elevations, sample floor plan
  • Street section(s)/site line study
  • Preliminary idea of building materials
  • Models and three-dimensional drawings (encouraged)

After review of the proposed plans, a letter will be sent to the owner either approving the plans as submitted, or suggesting changes that would make the plan acceptable. The MVBA Architectural Review Committee (ARC) will also submit its comments to CHAP. Upon ARC's conceptual approval, the project is then able to go through CHAP's conceptual review process.


Final Approval:

After taking into consideration the recommendations of the MVBA ARC and CHAP, the project may be submitted again for final design approval.

To present a project for final design approval, the owner/developer/ architect should provide the following items:

  • Completed CHAP Notice-to-Proceed form requesting Final Approval outlining the scope of work (form available here)
  • Site plan, all building elevations, building cross-section, sample floor plan
  • Existing photographs of the building or site in context
  • Samples, paint chips, and or cut sheets for all materials to be used

Upon ARC's approval, a completed Notice-to-Proceed is returned to the owner for submittal to CHAP. If necessary, the project will be placed before the CHAP commission for final approval, and the appropriate permit fees paid.


Protection of Contributing Structures in the Mount Vernon Historic District:

The designation of Mount Vernon as a CHAP historic district protects the contributing structures in the district from demolition. This protection is further increased by the new Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Plan, which provides strong disincentives for demolition.

Please note that the proposed demolition of any part of a “Contributing Structure" in the Mount Vernon Historic District requires a Demolition Review process separate from any consideration of a proposed design for a portion of a site.


In summary:
All residents, developers, and businesses seeking rehabilitation initiatives in the community should conform to the Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Plan's design guidelines for restoration and new construction. Listed below are some useful contacts.


Useful Contacts:


MVBA's Architectural Review Committee
Chair: Steven Shen
arc@mvba.org

For General questions or to schedule an appointment, email arc@mvba.org


Baltimore City
Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation (CHAP)
Department of Planning
417 East Fayette Street
8th floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

(410) 396-PLAN (7526)

Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation


Midtown Development Corporation
1228 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Financing, Consulting, and Project Managers for rehabilitation initiatives
(410) 327-7373


Jubilee Baltimore
1228 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Financing, Consulting, and Project Managers for rehabilitation initiatives
(410) 327-7373
www.jubileebaltimore.org


Baltimore City Office of Permits
The Benton Building
417 East Fayette Street
1st Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 396-4301

Baltimore Department of Housing


Baltimore Municipal Zoning and Appeals
The Benton Building
417 East Fayette Street
13th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 396-4301
Baltimore Municipal Zoning and Appeals


The Baltimore City Department of Planning
The Benton Building
417 East Fayette Street
8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 396-7526
The Baltimore City Department of Planning


State's Division of Neighborhood Revitalization
100 Community Place
Crownsville, MD 21032
Financing Incentives for Home ownership and Mixed-Use Initiatives
(410) 514-7000 or 1-800-756-0119

Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development


Updated 10/31/2016



Mt. Vernon Belvedere Association

1 East Chase Street #2

Baltimore, Md 21202

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