Certain proposals for construction, exterior alterations, building demolitions or signs in the City of Cleveland must undergo a process known as "design review." The City established this process as a policy to ensure that any visual changes to buildings or open spaces will enhance the architectural character of Neighborhood Commercial Districts.


Applicants Guide

What is a Business Revitalization District (BRD)?
A BRD is a neighborhood commercial district (or another non-residential district) which has been designated under the Zoning Code as a district in which all new construction and exterior property alterations are subject to "design review" prior to issuance of a Building Permit.

What is Not Subject to Design Review in a BRD?
One-family and two-family houses are exempt from design review in BRD's. Also, normal exterior maintenance and repairs, as well as interior alterations, are exempt from design review for all types of buildings.

What is Design Review?
"Design review" is a process in which new buildings, building renovation, and property improvements (such as parking, fencing and landscaping) are reviewed to ensure that their design is compatible with the character of surrounding buildings. Design review considers such subjects as architectural style, building placement, color, materials, landscaping, driveway locations, etc.

Who Conducts the Design Review Process?
A local design review committee is nominated by the neighborhood's community development corporation and approved by the City Planning Commission. A majority of the committee's 5-7 members must be design professionals (architects, landscape architects, graphic artists, etc.). The local committee reviews each project and makes a recommendation to the City Planning Commission.

Who Makes the Final Decision?
Final project approval is made by the Cleveland City Planning Commission (or by the Commission’s Director on behalf of the Commission) on the basis of the recommendation made by the Flats Oxbow Design Review Advisory Committee.

How Much Time Will Design Review Add to a Project?
Because it is conducted concurrently with the required Building permit review procedure coordinated by the Division of Building & Housing, design review typically will add only about one to two weeks to the approval process.

What Should be Included in the Submission?
The following items (many of which are required for a routine Building Permit application) should be included in the submission for design review approval:

  • A site plan indicating (existing and proposed) buildings, lot lines, parking spaces, driveways, landscaping, lighting fences, sidewalks, signs, etc.— drawn to scale and showing all relevant dimensions and noting such information as landscaping types, paving materials, etc.
  • Building elevation drawings (all four sides) indicating design materials, colors, type of illumination, signs, etc.
  • Color photos of the subject property in the context of adjoining properties within approximately 250 feet. (Polaroids are acceptable; photos will remain on file at the Flats Oxbow office).
  • Samples of materials or colors if such changes are proposed.
  • A brief written description of the work proposed, including a description of materials and installation methods.

What is an Informal Review?
In order to save time and money on detailed final drawings, an applicant may wish to present a preliminary concept plan to the Local Design Review Advisory Committee for feedback and guidance before making a formal Building Permit application. An informal review can be scheduled by calling the City Planning Commission (664-2210) office at least one week prior to the meeting.

What is the Formal Review Process?
The typical formal review process prior to issuance of a Building Permit includes the following steps:

  1. Applying for a Building Permit. The applicant first submits 4 sets of drawings to the Division of Building and Housing (City Hall, Room 505) and fills out a Building Permit application.
  2. Beginning the Design Review Process. The applicant is then directed to the City Planning Commission office (City Hall, Room 501) to fill out an application for design review, discuss the need for submission of any additional materials, and identify a tentative date for the Committee meeting.
  3. Scheduling the Committee Meeting. Once it has been determined that your application is complete, you will be notified of the date and time of the Design Review Advisory Committee meeting. Applications will be placed on the Committee’s agenda only if received by no later than 12 noon one week prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting. This deadline is necessary to permit proper review.
  4. The Committee Meeting. So that the Committee can reach its decision in a single session, it is recommended: 1) that both the business or property owner and the project architect or contractor attend the meeting and 2) that a complete plan be presented — including signage, parking, landscaping, etc. At the conclusion of the presentation, the Comittee will recommend either approval, approval with conditions, disapproval, or the submission of revised plans for re-consideration.
  5. City Planning Commission Decision. Based on the recommendation of the Design Review Advisory Committee, the City Planning Commission (or the Director acting on behalf of the Commission) makes a final decision on the proposal. In the case of an approval, a Certificate of Appropriateness is issued (indicating all relevant conditions) and a copy of the approved plans is stamped and signed. In the case of a disapproval, the applicant will be told of the reasons for disapproval and be given an opportunity to submit a revised plan.
  6. Issuance of a Building Permit. The Certificate of Appropriateness and the approved plans will then be transmitted to the Division of Building and Housing (City Hall, Room 505), which issues the necessary Building Permits.

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