Historic Preservation Commission
The Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) administers Milwaukee's historic preservation ordinance, adopted in 1981, which provides certain kinds of legal protection for buildings or sites that have been declared historic by the Common Council. The HPC is responsible for designating historic landmarks and historic districts and for approving Certificates of Appropriateness (COAs) for permission to alter historic buildings.
Any individual or group may nominate a building or place for designation as a Historic Structure, Historic Site, or Historic District. The Historic Preservation Commission reviews the applications and makes a recommendation to the Common Council that a structure or site should be declared "Historic." The Council then acts upon the Commission's recommendation.
After a designation has been approved by the Common Council, the structure, site or district is under the protection of Milwaukee's Historic Preservation Ordinance, and no changes may be made to the exterior unless the owner first obtains a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) from the Historic Preservation Commission.
Certificate of Appropriateness (COA): If possible, please submit applications by email only until further notice.
This certificate (COA) is the Commission's written affirmation that a proposed change is sympathetic to the historic character of the property and is consistent with the intent of the ordinance. All exterior repairs, replacements, alterations, and building permits at your locally designated historic property and yard require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) prior to beginning work. Many changes that do not require building permits nonetheless require a COA (such as re-roofing, re-siding, window replacement, tuck-pointing, and major landscaping) because of their potential to harm the historic character of the building and the unique characteristics and intricate details older homes have. When a permit is applied for, the Permit & Development Center will check to see if the property in question is a designated Historic Structure, Historic Site or within a Historic District. If it is, the applicant is required to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Application form (PDF)
Email Client Instructions (Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc.)
Both an email client and Acrobat Reader/Pro are necessary. Download the application form and open in Acrobat Reader/Pro. Do not complete the application form within a browser. The "SUBMIT" button should open a new email message in your email program. Please attach any further necessary materials such as drawings, renderings, and photos in this email message. If the "SUBMIT" button does not open a new, blank email message, follow the web-based email instructions below. A signature is not necessary for this form of electronic submission.
- Web Mail Instructions (Gmail, Icloud, Yahoo, etc.)
The "SUBMIT" button does not work with web-based e-mail. If you have Acrobat Pro, fill out the form and "Save As" and attach it to an email along with other materials. If you do not have Acrobat Pro, you may need to download, print, and scan the form and then submit to firstname.lastname@example.org with all further necessary documentation as additional email attachments.
Procedure for approval is in the HPC by-laws (on page 8 of the linked PDF)
Information concerning Certificates of Appropriateness issued beginning in 2010, is available at the City of Milwaukee's Legislative Research Center. For further assistance in locating a particular CoA, please contact Linda Elmer at (414) 286-2231.
Certificates from Aug 2006 to December 2009
Please note: If you intend to apply for historic preservation tax credits for a project that also requires the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission, you must apply to both the city and the state simultaneously. The state will not approve tax credits for work completed prior to their approval under any circumstances. City and State reviews follow similar guidelines, but there are substantial differences in documentation requirements, so the two reviews are not considered equivalent. An approval from the city’s Historic preservation Commission does not constitute an approval for historic tax credits.
Likewise, an approval for historic tax credits does not constitute an approval for a certificate of appropriateness from the Milwaukee HPC. You must not begin work until you have received both approvals in writing and any required building permits. Inform all parties (Milwaukee HPC, Wisconsin Historical Society, contractors, etc.) that you are making both submittals.