Most downtown commercial buildings have large ground-level openings (storefront), framed by vertical piers and a horizontal supporting beam. The storefront area includes an entrance (usually recessed), display windows, a paneled bulkhead under the display windows, sometimes a transom over the storefront, and a cornice which covers the horizontal beam. The first floor may also have a separate entrance to the upper floors. The upper floor facade of buildings in the downtown commercial district is generally characterized by evenly spaced windows that repeat on each floor. Finally, there is often a cornice along the top of the facade which may be constructed of metal, masonry, or wood. All of these elements must be considered when a commercial storefront is proposed for restoration or alteration or a new storefront is proposed for construction in an historic streetscape.
Usually, the storefront has changed more than any other part of a commercial building as an array of business owners have sought to remain competitive. The availability of steel beams, for instance, resulted in storefronts becoming more open as larger display windows were installed to attract customers. Unfortunately, some changes were not compatible with the design of the building or were accomplished with inexpensive materials that have not endured. On the other hand, some changes are extremely good design in their own right and have enhanced the original building.
Maintenance and Repair
1. Retain and repair all elements, materials, and features that are original to the storefront or are sensitive remodelings.
2. Consider restoring any original window opening that has been covered, filled in, or altered.
3. Remove any materials, elements, and sign panels that cover display windows, transoms, or bulkheads and that obscure original architectural elements such as windows, cornices, or decorative features.
4. Avoid adding incompatible elements or materials such as coach lanterns, overhanging roofs, small paned windows, wood shakes, vertical siding, or shutters on windows where they never previously existed.
5. Avoid creating a false historic appearance by remodeling a building with elements from an earlier period of construction.
1. If feasible, return a storefront to its original configuration by restoring as many original elements as possible, including windows, cornice, and decorative details. This work should be based on pictorial research and exploratory demolition that has determined the original storefront design and condition. If re-construction is not possible, any new storefront design should respect the character, materials, and design of the building.
2. New storefronts on new buildings should be compatible with the character of original storefronts in the Historic District.
3. Doors should be included in all storefronts to reinforce street-level vitality. Similarly, street level facades should provide visual interest rather than having blank walls.
4. Structures such as parking garages should have street-level storefronts or windows for businesses.
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