The city’s landmark commission voted Thursday to designate the Cooper-Young neighborhood as a historic overlay district.
This vote by the Memphis Landmark Commission could put a set of guidelines in place that will regulate demolition, new construction, and residential add-ons in the neighborhood.
Kristen Schebler, executive director of the Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA), the official applicant of the proposal told the Memphis Landmarks Commission that the new houses being built in the neighborhood lack the the historical characteristics of the Cooper-Young, like front porches.
This, she said, was a “huge motivating factor” for applying for historic overlay protection.
The new guidelines for the district would require that houses be constructed with front porches. “Unless there’s a good reason, they need to have a front porch,” Schebler said.
Another concern of the residents, she said is parking, citing the new houses constructed with front-loading parking and garages that take up much of the front facade and don’t “fit the feeling of Cooper-Young.”
She adds that garages limit the opportunities for interactions among residents.
Other guidelines touch on new construction height, size, roof shape, and building material requirements.
Bounded by Central on the north, East Parkway on the east, Southern on the south, and
Mclean to the west, the new historic overlay district would span 335 acres and include about 1,600 households.
Schebler said based on a community “good-faith” vote the majority of those households support the neighborhood’s historical designation.
However, members of the neighborhood who oppose the historic overlay protection told the commission that the guidelines are subjective and could have unintended consequences.
One resident of Cooper-Young said “one small group of people should not impose their will on an entire neighborhood.”
Additionally, there was concern about the transparency of the process.
Commissioner Andre Wharton agreed, expressing his concern about whether or not enough due process has been provided to all the residents of Cooper-Young. He encouraged the commission to have more discussion before moving forward with a vote.
“I’m concerned if enough due diligence has been put into it to ensure that everyone has had an opportunity to be heard.” Wharton said. “This is a huge deal.”
“I see benefits to having this designation, but I also see some of the detriment it could cause individuals,” Wharton continued, citing individuals who might not have the resources to adhere to the historic guidelines.
The commission approved the request six to one, with Wharton the only commissioner voting no.
The designation must be approved by both the Land Use Control Board and the Memphis City Council before taking effective. The commission expects this to take until late February 2018.