Preserving Our History

The City of Las Cruces values our history and culture, and encourages those who are repairing or rehabilitating their own historic properties to do so in a way that protects the integrity of the property.

Proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance

Residents of Las Cruces can help guide the emerging historic preservation program for the City of Las Cruces by reviewing the draft historic preservation ordinance which, once adopted, will help protect and promote those buildings and sites in our community that tell our story. Comments will be accepted up until Monday, October 1. 

How to give your input:

Summary Questions and Answers about the Historic Preservation Ordinance

The following Q & A is provided to help guide residents as they review the draft proposal:

Q: What is the purpose of the proposed ordinance?

A: The overarching goal is to protect and promote those buildings and sites in our community that tell our story. Through preservation, we can enhance civic pride, create sustainable neighborhoods, help make Las Cruces a heritage tourism destination, attract businesses to rehabilitate under-utilized buildings, and stabilize and increase property values.

Q: What does the proposed ordinance do?

A: It creates a Historic Preservation Commission with oversight to review planned modifications to the exteriors of properties listed in the Las Cruces Register of Cultural Properties. The Commission works with City staff during the plan review process; it offers educational information about preservation programs; and it prepares an annual report to present to City Council on the status of preservation efforts and achievements. By establishing a standard board and a review process, the proposed ordinance affirms the City of Las Cruces’ commitment to include historic preservation as a matter of public policy.

Q: What is the Las Cruces Register of Cultural Properties?

A: This register will be the official list of designated historic properties within the city limits. Those properties may be buildings at least fifty (50) years old, archeological sites, structures, or objects that possess historic or cultural value.

Q: How does a listing in the Las Cruces Register of Cultural Properties occur?

A: Typically, property owners initiate the nomination process for listing. While another party may wish to nominate a property for listing, only the owner of record may grant permission for their property to be listed in the local Register of Cultural Properties.

Q: If I currently reside in one of the three historic districts in Las Cruces, is my property automatically entered into the local Register of Cultural Properties?

A: No. However, residents in the Alameda-Deport Historic District, the Mesquite Original Townsite Historic District, or the Mesilla Park Historic District are eligible to nominate their property to be listed in the Register of Cultural Properties.

Q: Can only individual properties be listed in the Register of Cultural Properties?

A: No. Multiple properties may also be listed. A historic district, often consisting of a commercial area or a neighborhood, may contain as few as two properties or as many as several hundred. The process to nominate multiple properties to the local register follows similar steps as the nomination process for an individual property.

Q: What impact does the ordinance have on the issuance of a building permit?

A: Proposed scopes of work on properties with a local historic designation will be considered as part of the overall plan review process prior to the issuance of a building permit. Depending on the scope of work, approval may be obtained administratively, or for more detailed projects impacting the exteriors of historic properties, the Historic Preservation Commission will review the project. In either case, an applicant will need to secure a Certificate of Appropriateness before a building permit may be issued.

Q: Is this step in the plan review process complicated and lengthy?

A: No. Proposed modifications to the exteriors of designated cultural properties will be reviewed in a timely manner. Depending upon the proposed scope of work, the review process may be completed administratively by the Historic Preservation Specialist, or, for more extensive projects, the Historic Preservation Commission will consider proposed scopes of work at its monthly meeting.

Q: What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?

A: This certificate demonstrates that a proposed scope of work has been reviewed and approved either administratively or by the Historic Preservation Commission. Upon its issuance to an applicant, the applicant may then request a building permit to commence a project.

Q: What is a Certificate of Economic Hardship?

A: This certificate is a written record of relief issued by the Historic Preservation Commission, following the denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness, that authorizes an applicant to proceed with a revised scope of work when proper rehabilitation practices are clearly unfeasible from an economic standpoint.

Q: Is there a cost associated with the nomination process to list a property or properties, or to review a project to secure a Certificate of Appropriateness?

A: No. While the City of Las Cruces maintains a schedule of fees for building permits, the review process to secure a Certificate of Appropriateness does not incur any additional charge. Nor is there any charge to initiate and complete the process to list a property on the Las Cruces Register of Cultural Properties.

Benefits of Historic Preservation

The recent rehabilitation projects at the Rio Grande Theatre, Phillips Chapel, and Nestor Armijo house, are excellent examples of the community benefits of historic preservation, including:

  • Enhanced civic pride and neighborhood identity
  • Marketable commercial value of historic properties and district
  • Recognition that the accomplishments and challenges faced by earlier residents may be relevant now and in the future
  • Stabilized, and in some cases, increased, property values
  • Unique and engaging sites or districts for visitors to appreciate and enjoy

Historic Buildings in Las Cruces

The vast majority of historic properties are located downtown or the Mesquite, Alameda Depot, and Mesilla Park Historic Districts. Over 1,000 buildings and structures are listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties or the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information, email Troy Ainsworth.

Phillips Chapel Rehabilitation Completed in 2013

Workers Re-Finishing the Outside of Phillips Chapel