Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Register of Historic Places?

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of districts, sites, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture. Significance can be at the national, state, or local level. The Arizona Register of Historic Places is a parallel list of properties maintained at the state level.

The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) administers the National/Arizona Register programs. You can find an overview and information about the nomination process at the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office website.

A list of National Register districts and individual properties in Tucson may be found here.

How do I find out if my property has been designated as historic?

You can zoom in and view listed and pending National Register properties, Historic Preservation Zones, Neighborhood Preservation Zones, and City Historic Landmark Signs by visiting the City of Tucson’s interactive Historic Properties map. Properties within historic districts that are shown as “Contributing” are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. New properties are listed on the National Register on an ongoing basis.

Does my historic property qualify for tax incentives?

Homes that are owner-occupied and listed on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for the State Historic Property Tax Reclassification Program. This program reduces property taxes 35-45%. Enrollment is not automatic. An application must be filed with the Pima County Assessor by August 1 for the reduction to take effect the following year. The agreement lasts for 15 years and can be renewed.

To determine if you are receiving the historic property tax break, review your tax bill or search for your property on the Pima County Assessor's website. Next, review the category for Legislative Class and assessment ratio. If your property is enrolled in the program, the Legislative Class should be the number “6” and the assessment ratio should be 5%. Residential properties that are not enrolled in this program will display a Legislative Class of 3 or 4 and have an assessment ratio of 10%.

Commercial properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and that have been rehabilitated according to Secretary of Interior Standards may be eligible for the State Historic Property Tax Reclassification Program (10-year agreement) and/or the a federal Investment Tax Credit program. Consult the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, your accountant, or your tax attorney to learn  how to qualify.

What is a Tucson Historic Preservation Zone (HPZ)?

Historic Preservation Zones (HPZs) are City of Tucson zoning overlays enabled by a 1972 ordinance. There are five designated HPZs within the City: Armory Park, Barrio Historico, El Presidio, Fort Lowell, and West University. Changes to the exterior appearances of properties within these zones must comply with specific development standards and design guidelines for exterior alterations. Standards apply to both historic and non-historic buildings and to new construction, and includes work that does not require a building permit. You can view all Historic Preservation Zones in Tucson on the City of Tucson’s interactive Historic Properties Map.

For more information or to schedule a Historic Design Review, contact Michael Taku, Lead Planner at City of Tucson Planning and Development Services Department; phone: 520-837-4963 or Michael.Taku@tucsonaz.gov.

What is a Tucson Neighborhood Preservation Zone (NPZ)?

Neighborhood Preservation Zones (NPZs) are zoning overlays enabled by a 2008 ordinance, and are available to neighborhoods within the 1953 City limits that are designated National Register Historic Districts, or are eligible for that designation. The City of Tucson currently has two NPZs: Jefferson Park and Feldman’s Addition.

Within NPZs, new construction on residential (R)-zoned properties is required to be compatible with surrounding historic residential buildings, in accordance with specific design guidelines for each NPZ, to ensure that residential infill development fits with the unique historic characters of these historic neighborhoods.

What is a City Historic Landmark (HL)?

The designation of locally significant historic properties is initiated and approved by Mayor and Council. City Historic Landmarks have a historic zoning overlay that requires the Tucson Pima County Historical Commission to review any development plans for the property. You can find a list of City of Tucson Historic Landmarks here.

How are developers encouraged to preserve historic buildings in Tucson?

Flexible development options in the Greater Infill Incentive (IID) Subdistrict relieve property owners from parking, loading, and landscaping standards as well as certain other dimensional requirements and allow height increases if the development supports transit and pedestrian oriented development. In order to qualify for the IID, there can be no adverse effects on listed or eligible National Register properties.

The Rio Nuevo and Downtown (RND) Zone overlay also requires that exterior alterations to National Register listed or eligible buildings follow national standards for rehabilitating historic properties.

Formal design review and approval is required by the City of Tucson under both IID and RND requirements. Developers are encouraged to include architects familiar with historic preservation on their design teams.

For more information, contact Carolyn Laurie, Principle Planner at City of Tucson Planning and Development Services Department at Carolyn.Laurie@tucsonaz.gov or (520) 837-4953.

The City of Tucson is also in the process of creating an adaptive reuse program that would provide allowances to developers wishing to rehabilitate existing historic and non-historic buildings instead of demolishing them.

What is a City Historic Landmark Sign (HLS)?

Tucson has a unique character, history, and identity reflected in its historic and iconic signs. In 2011, the Mayor and Council passed an ordinance to amend the Sign Code, encouraging the maintenance, restoration and reuse of historic signs. Signs designated City Historic Landmark Signs can be located in commercial or residential areas (including Historic Preservation Zones). As of February 1, 2018, businesses are allowed to reuse or alter certain Historic Landmark Signs that do not meet current sign or lighting codes. You can find more information about the HLS Preservation Program and allowed uses here.

How do I research the history of my home?

  • Search for deeds, tax records, property abstracts, and maps to determine your house’s previous owners and the history of the building. The Pima County Assessor’s Office can help you begin.
  • Look through city directories, census records, and insurance maps for information on the house’s previous owners. Consult the holdings at The Pima County Public Library and Arizona Historical Society Archives & Library.
  • If your home was constructed after 1944, you can see if your subdivision was featured in the City of Tucson’s 2017 Post-World War II Context Study.
  • Conduct a search of the house and its yard. An architect or archaeologist can offer advice as to what to look for, and don’t forget to search the rafters and crawl spaces for records the former owners may have left behind.
  • Conduct online searches for your address, subdivision, or previous occupants at ancestry or newspaper archive websites.

Can I demolish my historic property?

Developers wishing to use the expanded options of the Infill Incentive District (IID) may not demolish or adversely impact a National Register listed or eligible property.

For other properties over 50 years of age, the following conditions must be met in order to obtain a demolition permit:

 

Architectural Documentation Review by Historic Preservation Office
[Download form]

Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission Review

Mayor & Council Vote

Historic Zone Advisory Board Review

Any Tucson building constructed more than 49 years ago

X

 

 

 

Rio Nuevo and Downtown Zone Historic Buildings

X

X

X

 

Historic Preservation Zone Buildings

X

X

X

X

To schedule a review with the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission Plans Review Subcommittee or a Historic Advisory Board, contact Michael Taku, Lead Planner at City of Tucson Planning and Development Services Department at 520-837-4963 or Michael.Taku@tucsonaz.gov.

Do You Have Tips for Choosing an Architect or Contractor?

If you live in a historic area, contact your neighborhood association or local preservation groups for recommendations of experienced local historic architects and contractors. The City of Tucson also maintains a list of on-call contractors for the repair and rehabilitation of historic buildings and the assessment of historic structures.

For the names of professional consultants who are qualified to assist with National Register of Historic Places nominations or amendments, contact the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office.