Design Guidelines and Policies
The Design Guidelines for the Old & Historic Alexandria (OHAD) and Parker-Gray Districts were developed to provide information and assistance to applicants in understanding the processes of the Board of Architectural Review. These guidelines should be utilized as tools to assist in developing a design approach. The policies listed outline the criteria and standards for administrative approval of select architectural features, including signs.
Both OHAD and Parker-Gray District
- Administrative Sign Policy
- Alexandria New and Replacement Window Performance Specifications in the Historic Districts 2021
- BAR Policies for Administrative Approval in Historic Districts
- BAR Policy for Administrative Approval of Gas Meters
- Design Guidelines for the Old & Historic Alexandria and Parker-Gray Districts
Parker-Gray Historic District
- Parker-Gray Residential Reference Guide (RRG) used in conjunction with the Alphabetical List of Early and Late Buildings in the Parker-Gray District
- BAR Policies for Administrative Approval (Parker-Gray Commercial)
- Adopted Parker-Gray Design Guidelines
How to Submit an Application to the Board of Architectural Review
Applications, Instructions and Fees
All applications should be submitted via the City's online APEX permitting system.
- 2023 Board of Architectural Review Hearing Schedule (OHAD; Parker-Gray Districts)
- Instructions for submitting a BAR application in APEX
BAR Full Hearing Application for Certificate of Appropriateness, Permit to Demolish, Waivers, or Concept Review
Please note: While Certificate of Appropriateness and Permit to Demolish utilize the same application, an applicant must submit two separate applications in APEX for each action if requesting both.
- BAR Concept Review Policy
- Fee Schedule
Learn about preservation and maintenance tips generally consistent with the Board of Architectural Review's preservation practice.
Art Deco & Streamline Moderne Buildings in Del Ray
The City researched all 15 Art Deco & Streamline Moderne buildings in the Del Ray neighborhood. Learn more.
Archaeology and Preservation
Alexandria Archaeology reviews development projects to determine impacts on archaeological resources and administers the Archaeology Protection Code.
If you think your historic house merits a bronze plaque, contact the Historic Alexandria Foundation or the Office of Historic Alexandria to learn more.
The History of Preservation in Alexandria
The City of Alexandria has long been a leader in historic preservation, with the third oldest historic district in the nation. Read some interviews with leaders of this movement.
Preservation of African American Sites
The Parker-Gray Historic District encompasses the historically black Uptown neighborhood. Nine African American historic sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. City parks and museums also preserve African American sites and h
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few answers to questions related to the City's historic districts and Board of Architectural Review.
- What's the difference between a National Register district and a local historic district?
Please refer to this document.
- How can I find out if my property is within an historic district? And do I need a Board of Architectural Review approval for work I'm planning on doing?
Refer to the Historic Preservation Map viewer, this pdf of the City’s Historic Districts, or feel free to call us at 703.746.3833. Historic Preservation staff will assist you in determining if your location is within one of the city’s local historic districts and whether you will need BAR approval. In general, historic district regulations pertain to the external appearance of the building.
- How many historic districts are in Alexandria?
Alexandria has seven National Register Historic Districts: Fairlington, Old and Historic Alexandria, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Uptown/Parker-Gray, Parkfairfax, Rosemont, and Town of Potomac. Only two of these historic districts are local historic districts regulated by the City through the Board of Architectural Review: Old and Historic Alexandria and Parker-Gray. Additionally, buildings designated by City Council ordinance as One Hundred-Year-Old Buildings are regulated by the Board of Architectural Review. Further information on all three can be found on this page.
- Do I need a Certificate of Appropriateness? How do I obtain one?
A Certificate of Appropriateness is required for all new construction and exterior alterations which are within an historic district and are visible from a public right of way. A Permit to Demolish is required for all demolition or encapsulation over 25 square feet, regardless of visibility. All applications can be found in the APEX permitting system and completed applications with supporting materials should be uploaded there as well. The Board of Architectural Review holds twice monthly public hearings to review applications and determine appropriateness. Hearing schedules, deadlines, and filing fees for applications can be obtained from the BAR web page or by calling the Planning & Zoning office.
- What is the Board of Architectural Review and what actions does it take?
The BAR is a seven-member committee appointed by the City Council and empowered to regulate changes that affect exteriors of structures in the historic districts. The Board may recommend approval of the application as submitted, approval with changes to the application, deferral of the application for restudy, or denial of the application. In the rare cases where the Board denies an application, the same case cannot be heard again by the Board for a period of one year.
- Who serves on the Board of Architectural Review?
The Board members are residents of Alexandria who are appointed by City Council. Any interested party may apply to serve on the Board. Two of the seven Board members must be architects. Each Board member serves a 3-year term. After the term expires, the member must reapply to the Board. Board vacancies are advertised through the City's eNews service.
- What is the Board of Architectural Review looking for in a project?
Generally the Board is looking for projects which are sensitive to the historic character of the building and its surroundings, use traditional building materials, and comply with the recommendations of the Design Guidelines and other approved policies.
- What should I expect at a Board of Architectural Review public hearing?
After BAR staff has announced your case, the Chair will ask you if you would like to make a presentation or answer questions. You are not required to make a presentation. It is highly recommended that you read and become familiar with the recommendations in the staff report prior to the discussion of your case. Staff reports are available online on the Friday prior to the public hearing. Additional hard copies are available outside of Council chambers at the public hearing.
- Do I need to attend my Board of Architectural Review public hearing?
Yes. You or your representative must attend the public hearing on your project. While the Board can take action on the application without the applicant being present, it is the policy of the Board to defer consideration of an application when the applicant is not present. If you decide to send a representative to attend the hearing for you, make sure that the individual is familiar with the case and is able to make decisions for you.
- Do I need to show my project plans to neighbors in my historic district?
While not required, we suggest that you show your plans to your neighbors early in the design process. You are responsible for sending out written notice to the adjacent property owners. With residents living in close proximity to one other, it is important to keep your neighbors informed of your plans. In addition to helping maintain peace between neighbors, having neighbor support for your project eases the approval process and subsequent construction.
- How long does the Board of Architectural Review approval process take?
After staff determines that a submitted application is complete, a hearing will take place generally 30 days after the filing deadline.
- How do I submit an application to the Board of Architectural Review?
Completed applications must be submitted in the Apex permitting system by 5 pm on the filing deadline. Instructions for how to apply can be found through APEX. Although the use of professional designers is not required, drawings must accurately portray the project. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
- How do I provide comments on a neighbor’s application to the Board of Architectural Review?
The primary way to provide comments is to speak at the public hearing. Following the applicant’s presentation, the BAR Chairman will open the discussion to the public. Another option is to provide written comments to the Board. Letters and/or emails should be submitted to BAR Staff by 5 pm on the Thursday prior to the public hearing.
- How do I appeal a decision of the Board of Architectural Review?
Appeals to City Council must be filed within 14 days of the BAR decision. The application, along with a filing fee, must be submitted to the City Clerk’s office. A decision by the BAR may be appealed by the applicant or by 25 property owners within the corresponding historic district.
- May I get staff approval instead of going to a full Board of Architectural Review public hearing?
Yes, under certain circumstances you may secure administrative approval from the Historic Preservation staff. Information for the Old and Historic Alexandria District and Parker Gray commercial can be found here. The Parker Gray Residential Reference Guide is here. The administrative approval process normally takes less than a week, depending on workflow. The Administrative Approval Application can be found in the APEX permitting system.
Resources and Information
- Board of Architectural Review
- Del Ray Neighborhood Residential Pattern Book
- National Register compared with Local Historic District
- National Register of Historic Places Information
- American Institute of Architects
- American Institute of Architects, Northern Virginia Chapter
- DC Historic Preservation Office
- Maryland Historic Trust
- National Park Service
- National Preservation Institute
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- National Register of Historic Places Information
- This Old House (PBS)
- Historic Preservation staff support the Board of Architectural Review through the application of the local historic district regulations, provision of technical preservation and architectural assistance to property owners, implementation of historic preservation initiatives and ongoing community outreach throughout the city.
- Contact the Historic Preservation staff in the Department of Planning and Zoning, 703.746.3833.
- Office of Historic Alexandria's preservation activities include Archaeology, Preservation Easements, and stewardship of City-owned historic sites and museums.
- Contact the Office of Historic Alexandria staff , 703.746.4554.