Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission

Landmark Designation
One of the major responsibilities of the Commission is to recommend to the Omaha City Council buildings, districts, structures, objects or sites worthy of designation as City of Omaha Landmarks.

Historical or architectural significance, required for designation, is determined generally through the use of criteria established by the ordinance based on the Department of the Interior’s standards for evaluating nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the Commission and staff have developed “A Comprehensive Program for Historic Preservation in Omaha” to further guide policy in this area.

Adopted in 1980 by the City Council, this plan includes an analysis of Omaha’s historic growth and development patterns; a statement of city-wide preservation goals and objectives; a description of criteria and standards for landmark designation; and an outline of strategies and priorities for future City preservation efforts. Copies of this publication can be obtained through the Planning Department.

Landmark Designation Procedure for Individual Properties
Several kinds of properties are eligible for landmark designation. Single buildings, or a group of related buildings on a single lot or parcel of land, compose one category; structures, sites, and objects are additional categories of properties that may qualify for listing.

Properties defined as “structures” may include bridges, roads, grain elevators or other functional constructions used for purposes other than creating a shelter. A site is the location of a significant event or building or structure where the area itself has significance regardless of the value of any existing structure. The Trans-Mississippi Exposition Site in an example of a City of Omaha Landmark in this category. Fountains and monuments are examples of “objects”; these properties are generally smaller in scale and often have artistic value.

Application for designation for buildings, structures sites or objects may be made by the property owner, the Commission or the City Council. An owner considering landmark listing should first arrange for a pre-application meeting with the Commission staff. Staff members will inspect the property, if necessary, and provide the applicant with an assessment of its potential for Landmark designation. Where specific rehabilitation activities are planned, the staff will discuss proposed modifications and provide advice on what might be considered appropriate renovation, should designation be granted.

A property owner wishing to proceed with the designation will be given an application for landmark designation. The owner will be requested to provide a legal description of the property, a description of the property’s present and original appearance, and any other pertinent historical information. The staff will then assess the application, and if the property meets criteria, proceed with the application process by compiling a case file and nomination form.

Upon completion of the case file, the proposal will be scheduled for public hearing before the Commission. Prior to the public hearing on the proposed designation, the Commission will inspect the property. At the hearing, the application will be reviewed and public testimony will be heard. The commission will then recommend on the case.

The Commission’s recommendation is subsequently transmitted to the City Planning Board for review of the proposal’s conformance with the City’s Master Plan. After a public hearing, the Planning Board votes on the proposal and if affirmed, this recommendation, as well as that of the Commission, are forwarded to the City Council for action.

The City Council then considers the designation and votes on the proposal following a public hearing. Adoption of the designation, which takes the form of a city ordinance, requires a majority vote by the Council (or five affirmative votes when the property owner does not concur with the designation). The designation becomes effective fifteen days after Council approval.

Landmark Designation Procedures for Districts
A landmark heritage district is a geographic area containing a number of properties united historically or aesthetically, constituting a district section of the city. The Old Market is one such area that has been given landmark heritage district status. The procedure for district designation varies somewhat from that of Landmark designation. Landmark Heritage Districts can only be formed upon application by at least fifty-one percent of the owners of property in the proposed district. However, to ensure a successful effort, applicants should gain written consent from a substantially higher percentage of property owners in the proposed district.

During the initial phase of district formation, commission and Staff members will meet with property owners to provide information about the implications of district designation. Commission staff will carry out all technical aspects of district creation, such as establishing district boundaries, documenting significance and preparing documents necessary for designation. Obtaining written consent from the property owners within the proposed district by means of a petition remains the responsibility of the property owners themselves. Once a petition form has been completed and filed with the Planning Department, an application for landmark heritage district designation must be completed. Although this application requires the same information as is supplied for an individual landmark designation, the amount and complexity of the data are likely to be much greater, and therefore a major research effort should be anticipated. Assistance from community members or neighborhood organizations can expedite this process.

Upon application for landmark heritage district designation, the Commission and City Planning Board will hold public hearings and forward their recommendations, following a procedure identical to that for individual landmark designation. Approval by a majority of the members of City Council is required for designation.
At the time that a district is approved for designation, design guidelines specifically created for the district may also be adopted. Developed by Commission staff together with property owners, such guidelines are intended to maintain the character-defining features of the area while meeting the practical needs of the property owners.

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