Photo courtesy Richard Margolis
Designated Buildings of Historic Value
City of Rochester
In 2003, the City of Rochester created a list of Designated Buildings of Historic Value (DBHV) as part of the Zoning Code to protect the character and economic value of Rochester’s many historic buildings. The DBHV list contains properties that have been determined by the New York State Historic Preservation Office to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Zoning Code prohibits demolition of a DBHV and further requires that significant architectural features be maintained. In recent years, however, the Zoning Board of Appeals has issued variances allowing the demolition of protected DBHV’s, including the highly publicized Cataract Brewery building and the former church at 660 West Main Street.
These recent decisions to allow the demolition of buildings of indisputable historic value highlight the discrepancy between the letter and intent of the Zoning Code and its actual implementation. As one ZBA member pointed out at the recent 660 W. Main hearings, by approving the demolition of neglected DBHV’s, the ZBA has provided a blueprint for irresponsible owners who wish to demolish protected historic buildings.
We are including the Designated Buildings of Historic Value list in our 2014 Five to Revive to draw attention to this list and the review process these buildings must pass through before they are lost forever. At nearly 5000 properties, it is said the list is too unwieldy and restrictive. Yet recent events have shown the intended protection and thoughtful review has become just another routine step in the review process. The Landmark Society hopes to work collaboratively with the City of Rochester and other stakeholders to update and refine the DBHV list and to reexamine the evaluation criteria when it comes to erasing Rochester’s important historic resources.