Tools to Prevent Demolitions

(Excerpted from

Landmark Designation. Under City of Austin code, this is the only means to prevent the demolition of a significant historic property. To qualify for the designation, the property must meet at least two of five criteria for significance:

  • The property is at least 50 years old and represents a period of significance of at least 50 years ago unless the property is of exceptional importance as defined by National Register Bulletin 22, National Park Service (1996); and 
  • The property retains a high degree of integrity, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places, that clearly conveys its historical significance and does not include an addition or alteration which has significantly compromised its integrity; and
  • The property is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places; or is designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, State Archeological Landmark, or National Historic Landmark OR demonstrates significance in at least two of the following categories: 
    • Architecture
    • Historical Associations
    • Archaeology
    • Community Value
    • Landscape Feature
  • In relatively few cases will the commission vote to recommend historic zoning over the owner’s objection.
  • Additionally, state law set a supermajority requirement for landmark designation without owner consent, requiring that a ¾ majority of both the Historic Landmark Commission and City Council vote in favor. This has never been achieved since the law was enacted.
  • As a result, the Historic Landmark Commission must release most demolition permits it considers. This includes demolitions within National Register Historic Districts, over which the commission has only an advisory capacity unless a property independently meets the historic landmark criteria.

Download an application for Individual Landmark Designation here.

Voluntary Local Historic District Designation. The creation of Local Historic Districts is the most effective tool for protecting historic properties. Many more properties could qualify for protection as Contributing Properties within a historic district, without meeting the individual landmark criteria. Historic districts treat historic resources more holistically in their context, as a collection, which allows more neighborhoods that reflect underrepresented communities to be recognized and protected.