The Urban Planning office assists in identifying and preserving historically significant landmarks and districts. The Historic Preservation Commission, with the assistance of the preservation planner, reviews requests for exterior changes to properties located within the seven local historic districts and conservation districts, and historic landmarks. Historic preservation helps to ensure that any proposed change is compatible with the historic character of the building and neighborhood.

Iowa City has eight historic districts that are on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by local historic preservation zoning. These include the Brown Street, College Green, East College Street, Jefferson Street, Longfellow, Northside, Summit Street and Woodlawn districts. The Melrose district is on the National Register but is not designated as local historic preservation zoning district. The CIty also has five conservation districts, including Clark Street, College Hill, Dearborn Street, Goosetown/Horace Mann and Governor-Lucas Street.