Historic Apartment & Multifamily Design Guidelines


Historic apartment and other multifamily buildings are a key traditional building type in Salt Lake City’s central and older neighborhoods. The special character of significant parts of the city’s historic districts depends upon the individual or combined contribution of these buildings, their scale and their architectural distinction. The city’s historic apartment buildings help to create the individuality, identity and residential amenity and livability of this community, marking the decades which transformed Salt Lake City from an agricultural to a concentrated, industrial, urban city.

Where located within a City designated local historic district, the characteristics of these buildings are protected by additional design review to ensure that changes do not adversely affect their special character. Design review is based on the design standards for a Historic Preservation Overlay in the City Zoning Ordinance, addressing alterations to an existing building, and the design of a new building, and the design standards are clarified and supported by adopted design guidelines. Apr12 010 LR

Currently, the design guidelines for historic residential properties make only limited reference to apartment and multifamily buildings, and do not provide useful guidance for this type of building. Consequently, there is a need to address the particular characteristics and issues associated with these buildings, to ensure that future design review is sensitive to their role and character, and that new multifamily buildings contribute in a positive manner to the rich traditions of apartment development in the city. The need for multifamily design guidelines is identified as an objective in the recently adopted Preservation Plan.

While providing more detailed design criteria for consideration and review, the adopted design guidelines also have a dual role, enhancing the information and advice available to the community, and for anyone planning a repair, rehabilitation or construction project.

The Historic Apartment and Multifamily Design Guidelines are currently in draft form. Thoughts, observations and insights are welcomed from all sectors of the residential and business community to enhance the appreciation and to safeguard the architectural qualities of these special buildings, and to ensure that these guidelines best serve the policy objectives of the City and the community.

Summary of Goals for the Design Guidelines

The Design Guidelines for Historic Apartment and Multifamily Buildings in Salt Lake City have several goals.

  • To enhance the understanding of the history, character and role of historic apartment and multifamily buildings.
  • To provide information on best practices for maintenance, repair and sensitive alteration of historic apartment and multifamily buildings.
  • To provide design advice, guidance and review criteria for sensitive repair, alteration and addition to existing apartment buildings.
  • To provide design guidance and design review criteria for a new multifamily building in one of the city’s local historic districts.

DSC_0288 LRContext & Structure of the Design Guidelines

Recently, in recognition of the importance of safeguarding the community’s historic resources, Salt Lake City has adopted new design guidelines for residential and commercial buildings and signs for historic districts and historic buildings. The current design guidelines for historic apartment and multifamily buildings will supplement, and be integrated with, this series when they are adopted. In their current draft form the design guidelines are arranged in several parts:


1.  Why Preserve Historic Buildings and Neighborhoods?

2.  The Preservation Program in Salt Lake City

3.  The Design Guidelines

The first sections of the Residential Design Guidelines provide an introduction for (but currently not included within) these apartment and multifamily guidelines.

4.  Historic Context, Architectural Types & Styles

This section summarizes the history apartment and multifamily development in Salt Lake City, and identifies principal architectural styles and types.


Chapters 1 – 11 follow a similar structure and format to the recently adopted residential guidelines, adapted in several places to recognize the specific characteristics of this type of building. The new material will become a part of these residential chapters when adopted. Chapters 1 to 11 are:

  1. Site Features & Streetscapes
  2. Building Materials & Finishes
  3. Windows
  4. Doors & Entries
  5. Porches & Balconies
  6. Building Form, Façade Design, Architectural Elements & Details
  7. Roof Forms & Parapets
  8. Additions
  9. Accessory Structures (Garages, Carports, Ancillary Structures)
  10. Seismic Retrofitting
  11.  General Issues – Access, Service & Parking Areas, Mechanical Equipment, Vents, Communications Dishes & Antennae, Solar Arrays, Landscaping, Fire Escapes, etc.

DSC_0276 LRChapter 12 addresses Design Guidelines for New Construction. This chapter covers design guidelines for Site Design and Building Design, and Signs, preceded by a summary of the purpose and context of the guidelines. This will be a new chapter specifically addressing the design criteria for a new multifamily building.


This section, arranged in Chapters 13-18, summarizes the history of apartment and other multifamily development within each of the city’s local historic residential districts, drawn directly from the historic architectural surveys for each district. This historical background will supplement the individual chapters of each historic district in the Preservation Handbook for Historic Residential Properties & Districts in Salt Lake City. Background is provided on The Avenues, Capitol Hill, Central City, South Temple, University and Westmoreland Place historic districts.


As a part of the historic apartment and multifamily design guidelines, there is a new chapter covering advisory principles and guidelines to encourage Sustainable Development. Although these guidelines are solely advisory and will not be used in design review by the City, historic buildings, multifamily buildings in particular and historic districts have many inherently sustainable characteristics and advantages. Consequently, they have a significant role to play in ensuring that Salt Lake City capitalizes on these assets in helping to contain and reduce the impact of current and future development and building management activity on climate change and atmospheric quality.

The principles and guidelines for sustainable development form a distinct section here, as the historic apartment and multifamily guidelines are developed. They will subsequently become a resource for the complete series of design guidelines, including the residential and commercial guidelines. Understanding the sustainable assets associated with historic buildings and neighborhoods, and their inclusion in future plans for buildings and districts in the city, are essential to the success of any comprehensive policy on sustainable development.