Restoration Series: Historic Storefronts / by Maddy Carter

There are 36,000 historic districts throughout New York City and an additional 1,398 individual historic landmarks. When it comes to restoring historic buildings, all changes must comply with the rules and regulations of NYC’s Landmark Preservation Commission.

Considerations For Historic Storefront Rehabilitation Know Your Building Style: Become familiar with the original style of your building and the role of the storefront in the overall design. Allow the style to inspire you but steer clear of cliche detailings except for where they previously existed and incorporate more simple and complementary elements.

Use Traditional Materials: Use appropriate materials and avoid those that were unavailable when the storefront was first constructed. Landmarks will enforce the use of original materials or materials that are similar such as wood or wood clad. Another example would be paint, choose colors based on the original appearance - landmarks can now conduct testing to prove the original paint color, and never coat surfaces that were not previously painted. For 19th century storefronts, contrasting colors may be appropriate, but avoid using too many different colors on a single facade.

Know Your Permits: There are a number of different permits available through landmarks such as Certificate of No Effect (CNE), Permit for Minor Work (PMW), Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA), Master Plans and Authorizations to Proceed (ATP). Learn which one is best suited to your project and familiarize yourself with the application requirements, processing times and validity periods.

Preserve The Interior: Of course the most important aspect of a restoration is to preserve the storefronts character, this includes interior as well as the exterior. Consider this aspect when choosing blinds, curtains, fabrics, colors etc.