Old City Design Guide

An excellent guide on how to allow for continued growth for Old City while still retaining its unique charms
— Dan Bosin, local architect

Creating a design guide was the first Vision2026 action item to be implemented. The guide is meant to communicate community values and priorities to developers, builders, and architects, in order to help them make development decisions that will be welcomed and profitable. It begins with an outline of four “imperatives”:

1. Build for 100 years;

2. Build harmonious variety;

3. Build a street, not only a building; and

4. Build for people.


Thereafter, the guide presents the District’s “civic checklist,” a set of policy positions considered when reviewing common variance requests, such as height, parking, food uses, loading areas, etc. The Old City community's priorities include support for increased numbers of residents and businesses, while maintaining traditional building form and height. In order to fulfill these potentially contradictory objectives, the checklist identifies and memorializes a critical tradeoff. First, it reaffirms existing building height limits which, together with FAR, creates a maximum building envelop. In order to prevent this maximize the productivity of this limited envelop, the checklist establishes a starting policy position to support any and all requests to provide less (include zero) parking than zoning currently requires. By making these choices, Old City is supporting increased density while maintaining traditional building form and discouraging additional motor traffic on its historic streets. 


The design guide, which remains agnostic to architectural fashion, includes core recommendations for new construction opportunities:

Frame the street: well-defined street line and variable building height

Constrain horizontal components to create vertical proportion and street rhythm

Do not preclude retail on primary streets

Prioritize people over cars

Compose buildings and their elements with familiar patterns and enduring materials  


Since historic districts like Old City are largely build out, the design guide is not limited to new construction. It goes on to includes shopfront design recommendations for both new and existing stores and restaurants. Topics include:

Storefront elevation: composition, transparency, style

The shop-to-roadway cross-section

Creative elements to enhance a shopfront


The design guide concludes with a set of options for activating the sidewalk beyond a building’s walls, which may be undertaken by developers, shopkeepers, or even community groups. 


JVM Studio's Jonas Maciunas, while a senior planner with NV5, wrote this design guide.