First Montrose Commons was designated as a historic district in June 2010. The designation was based on “its value as a visible reminder of Houston’s development, from 1900–1941; its identification with notable residents; and its architecture.” The Civic Association of First Montrose Commons, formed in 1994, realized the importance of preserving the “rich and diverse character of the neighborhood.”
Within a very few years, neighbors realized the best way to do that would be to receive Houston’s designation of Historic District. Approximately 68% of the neighborhood is comprised of buildings more than 50 years old, well worth preservation efforts.
The campaign began on March 1, 2009 with the circulation to homeowners of a petition describing the benefits of the historic district and asking for their signature of approval. In order to be considered for this designation, the signatures of 51% of property owners were needed, as well as 51% of the land area within the district. A committee of dedicated homeowners set about writing letters, knocking on doors and photographing every building within the proposed district. It was quite a challenge but they were up to it and within a few months the petition was submitted to the City of Houston’s Archeological & Historical Commission.
In June 2010, First Montrose Commons became the 16th Historic District within the city. A builder or new buyer would have to wait 90 days before demolishing a structure even after obtaining permission from the Historic Preservation Office. With the Mayor’s push, however, City Council later voted that all historic districts would be permanently protected. No house could be demolished or the exterior substantially altered without approval of the Historic Preservation Office and a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The Historic District designation has served FMC well. We have seen restoration of several houses that were at first deemed uninhabitable. There are new homes and they are built with the required setback from the street, helping to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood.