Washington Square Commercial Local Historic District: Preserving an Illinois Community’s Historic Resources

When first-year Master of Urban Planning student Marcia Klopf began her search for a master's capstone project, she was looking for a project which would combine her interests in historic preservation and urban design. Through Kathie Brown, a University of Illinois Extension Educator for Community and Economic Development (serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell Counties), Marcia found the perfect match—The City of Washington. Beginning the project in November 2014, one year after an EF-4 tornado devastated parts of the small Central Illinois community, Marcia focused on Washington's historic commercial downtown. The goal was to protect the City of Washington's historic downtown Square and to celebrate its historic resources.

Through this community engagement project,a comprehensive group of materials developed, covering the National Register of Historic Places, local designation, design guidelines, and a resource book, all interwoven with outstanding public participation. The following documents were created in the course of this project, which can serve as a tool for other communities looking to preserve their historic downtown:

Washington Historic Commercial Square: Preliminary Application for National Register listing;

• National Register Determination for Washington Square Commercial Historic District;

• Washington Historic District Survey (158 people, 19 questions);

• Washington Historic Commercial Square Survey Results;

Washington Historic Survey Summary Results;

Washington Historic Preservation Ordinance (Local Historic District Designation);

Washington Square Commercial Historic District Design Review Guidelines; and

Washington Square Commercial Local Historic District Resource Book.

Working with U of I Extension and the City of Washington, Planning and Zoning Director Jon Oliphant, Marcia participated in more than 20 public meetings, including those with property owners, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and City Council. Extensive public participation, including a survey (targeted to residents of, employees of, and visitors to the historic Square), was effectively used to ensure understanding, transparency, and support of the new designation of a Local Commercial Historic District. Education worked in tandem with public participation to ensure a successful project. Because of the high quality and comprehensiveness of this planning effort, this project was selected as the 2016 Illinois Chapter Planning Association Student Award.

For more information about the Community and Economic Development programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Extension Unit, please contact Kathleen Brown, Extension Educator,at brownlk@illinois.edu or 309-255-9189.