The Beauregard Town Civic Association is moving forward with a plan to turn the neighborhood into a locally designated historic district, which, if approved, would make it one of just three such districts in Baton Rouge.
The association has been working on the effort with the Planning Commission, which in 2019 received a $17,500 grant from the State Historic Office of Preservation to fund an architectural survey of all 517 structures and 38 distinct architectural styles in the neighborhood.
They’ve also been meeting with property owners to discuss the idea and weigh potential concerns. So far, civic association president Jeff Kuehny says support for the idea has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Historic districts across the country not only help preserve the neighborhood but help increase the value of the property,” Kuehny says. “It gives more stability to the neighborhood.”
Beauregard Town has been a federally designated historic district since the early 1980s. Though the federal designation is honorary, not regulatory, it does enable property owners to qualify for federal historic building tax credits when renovating historic buildings, Planning Director Ryan Holcomb explains.
The local designation does regulate what property owners can do with their structures, but also potentially increases property values.
This isn’t the first time preservation advocates in the neighborhood have attempted to gain historic district status. When Spanish Town and Drehr Place in the Garden District became historic districts in the early 2000s, some pushed for Beauregard Town also to become one.
But property owners resisted because of concerns over restrictions it might impose on them.
Kuehny says he believes neighborhood attitudes have changed significantly over the past decade or so.
“I think there is more interest in our neighborhood and trying to preserve it than there was a decade ago,” he says. “We have lost quite a few structures over the years, either due to neglect or demolition. Sonic came in and tore down a house and there wasn’t much thought given to it. We are hoping this will prevent some of that from happening.”
There’s another factor that could also be making the idea less intimidating than before. The state has loosened some of the rules around local historic districts, creating what Holcomb describes as “historic district lite” with less restrictive rules than in the past.
Under the less restrictive designation, property owners could make minor changes to their structures—changing out light fixtures, windows and doors—without having to seek approval through a Certificate of Appropriateness.
In another change from the more restrictive rules that govern Spanish Town and Drehr Place, property owners would need only to apply for a CoA if making a major change to the exterior of their property that is visible from the street, not anything in the rear or side that is not visible from the street, Holcomb says.
If all goes as planned, the whole process could be completed by fall. The civic association is expected to make a formal application for historic district status in the coming days that would then go before the Historic Preservation Commission for approval in July and the Planning Commission for approval in August and, finally, the Metro Council in September.