Although each Heritage Conservation District (HCD) is unique, many share a common set of characteristics. These may be defined as:
- A concentration of heritage buildings, sites, structures; designed landscapes, natural landscapes that are linked by aesthetic, historical and socio-cultural contexts or use.
- A framework of structured elements including major natural features such as topography, land form, landscapes, watercourses and built form such as pathways and street patterns, landmarks, nodes or intersections, approaches and edges.
- A sense of visual coherence through the use of such elements as building scale, mass, height, material, proportion, colour, etc. that convey a distinct sense of time or place.
- A distinctiveness which enables districts to be recognized and distinguishable from their surroundings or from neighbouring areas.