Chicago Landmark Districts

Chicago Landmark Districts

Creating Chicago Landmark Districts

When concerned citizens approach Preservation Chicago, most often the motivating catalyst is a threatened teardown or recent demolition in their neighborhood. There are many well-documented and proven benefits from Landmark Districts.

In 2004, Preservation Chicago embarked on a campaign called The Landmark District Initiative. This campaign was designed to help inform communities about the benefits of creating landmark districts. Our educational outreach seeks to provide the facts that communities require to determine if the creation of a Chicago Landmark District is the right planning strategy for their neighborhood, community or block. During community meetings, we inform, provide guidance, and facilitate open dialogue.

If you would like to learn more about creating a Chicago Landmark District in your neighborhood, please feel free to contact us directly.

What is a Chicago Landmark District?

A Chicago Landmark District is a collection of historic buildings within a designated area that contribute to neighborhood character through History, Economy, Architecture, Art or Culture.

Landmarks in Chicago by the Numbers

Chicago has approximately 350 Individual Landmarks and approximately 60 Landmark Districts. Link to list of Chicago Landmarks and Chicago Landmark Districts.

What is the purpose of a Chicago Landmark District?

Communities choose to create Landmark Districts to…
1. Maintain the character and beauty of their neighborhood
2. Prevent the demolition of historically significant homes, buildings, and streetscapes
3. Protect the neighborhood against tear-downs and over-development

Chicago Landmarks Criteria

Chicago Landmarks and Landmark Districts must meet two of the following criteria:
1. Critical Part of Chicago’s Heritage
2. Significant Historical Event
3. Significant Person
4. Important Architecture
5. Important Architect
6. Distinctive Theme as a District
7. Unique Visual Feature
…and must meet the “Integrity” criterion.

Benefits of Chicago Landmark Districts

BENEFIT #1: Protect Your Investment

Landmark Districts protect investments in historic properties
* Insensitive and poorly planned development often undermine property values.
* In contrast, Landmark Districts encourage people to purchase and rehabilitate properties because they know their investment will be protected over time, as the value is in the building, not the land.

BENEFIT #2: Faster Appreciation

Within Landmark Districts in affluent communities, properties appreciate at greater rates than the overall local market. However, property tax amounts increase more slowly than similar, non-designated neighborhoods where demolition and new construction is frequent.
* Landmark Districts in neighborhoods of appreciate faster than similar, non-designated neighborhoods. Findings on this point are consistent across the country.
* Additionally, recent analysis shows that historic districts are less vulnerable to market volatility from economic downturns.
* In neighborhoods of impacted by disinvestment or experiencing gentrification, Landmark Districts typically have a stabilizing effect as the value of a property resides in the existing buildings and units, not the land for demolition and new construction.

BENEFIT #3: Better Design

Landmark Districts encourage better and higher quality design. Better design equals…
* a greater sense of cohesiveness,
* more innovative use of materials
* and greater public appeal
All of which are shown to occur more often within designated Landmark Districts than non-designated ones.

BENEFIT #4: Historic = Green

Landmark Districts are good for the environment
* “The greenest building is the one that already exists.” – Carl Elefante, former president of the American Institute of Architects
* Landmark Districts encourage communities to retain and reuse their existing resources.
* Walkable historic neighborhoods reduce car dependence and congestion.
* Reusing historic buildings reduces landfill waste.

BENEFIT #5: More Energy Efficiency

Historic buildings are energy-efficient
* Most historic buildings were designed to maximize natural light and cross-ventilation.
* Retrofitting renewable-energy technologies are ideal for historic buildings.

BENEFIT #6: Tangible Link to Our Past

Landmark Districts are a powerful tool for education and story-telling
* Historic Landmark Districts are a tangible link to the past. They can bring meaning to people’s lives and make history “come alive”.
* They preserve the original character of buildings and streetscapes, while welcoming growth and innovation within those spaces.

BENEFIT #7: Increased Tourism

Historic Landmark Districts positively impact Chicago’s economy through tourism
Tourism in Chicago (pre-Covid) includes:
* 50.2 Million visitors
* Over 160,000 jobs
* $19 Billion in direct spending
* $2.5 Billion in tax revenues Economic Impact of Tourism in Chicago 2021(Economic Impact of Tourism in Chicago 2021 statistics from

* Tourism is one of Chicago’s leading industries and is a critical part of Chicago’s economic development strategy.
* Tourism is a major engine for economic growth and job creation; it can drive our city’s recovery.
* Tourism creates jobs that CANNOT be outsourced and hires people of all education levels.

BENEFIT #8: Support Local Business

Protected Historic Landmark Districts support existing Chicago businesses and attract new businesses to relocate to Chicago
* Vibrant commercial corridors and charming neighborhoods with character attract new businesses.
* Companies consistently choose to relocate to communities that offer their workers a higher quality of life…precisely those elements that Landmark Districts promote.

BENEFIT #9: Increased Social Fabric

Landmark Districts create cohesive and diverse communities
People living in historic districts enjoy the comfort of…
* a human-scale environment(a mix of aesthetics and design for people, not cars);
* the opportunity to live and work in attractive surroundings;
* a recognizable and walkable neighborhood;
* and the galvanizing effect of community-based organizing.

BENEFIT #10: Tool for Planning

Landmark Districts empower communities to shape their future
* Community organizing is required to create Landmark Districts.
* Once created, Landmark Districts provide a powerful planning tool to ensure that citizens have a voice in the future of their community.
* They prevent decisions from being made “behind closed doors” and without public input.

Additional Landmark and Landmark District Benefits:

* Free building permits in Chicago
* Opportunity for tax credits
* Opportunity for Adopt-a-Landmark Funding and Class ‘L’ Property Tax Incentive
* Qualification for preservation programs and assistance
* Opportunities for renovation assistance and guidance
* Relaxation of certain zoning requirements (i.e. parking)

Additional Chicago Landmark District Resources

Benefits of Chicago Landmark Districts Slide Presentation link Lincoln Park Historic Districts Final 10.24.23

City of Chicago Landmarks Commission web site

Row of classic vernacular Chicago two-flats on Leclaire Avenue, circa 1910 to 1915. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers