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Thread: DTD: Thomas Building and Plaza renovation

  1. #1
    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    DTD: Thomas Building and Plaza renovation

    Recently we were discussing whether the Old Dallas Federal Reserve should be a datacenter like it is today or converted to some other use. But after a recent visit, I realized that the site facing the building, a parking lot and the vacant Thomas Building, have much more potential for redevelopment. The gist of my post is that I would love to see the Thomas Building converted to residential, add glass and balconies to the side facing the Fed Reserve Building and turn the parking lot into an underground garage topped by a plaza anchored by some sort of fountain. Here is a visual reference I put together with my awesome Photoshop skills:



    While I'm not a huge fan of Iron Cactus and Pegasus Plaza, they are a good example of an older building reoriented to face an empty space. I don't know what used to be in the spot where Pegasus Plaza is now, but I'm sure it wasn't greenspace.



    Again, using my superb Photoshop skills I took an image of the Thomas building and used it to visualize how the building addition would look like facing the plaza:





    And of course, no rendering is complete without people walking around:



    Obviously, the Iron Cactus layer is just for reference and I would prefer to see about a 10-20 foot wide addition that includes balcony space on all 8 floors so that residents can look at the plaza, fountain and Fed Reserve. The fountain doesn't need to look European at all, but it would be cool if it borrowed design cues from the Fed Reserve. The lighting on the plaza could be replicas of the lamp posts at the Fed, for example, while lighting on the fountain could be LED so it changes colors. The ground floor of the building facing the plaza could be a large community space or it could be retail for a coffee shop or wine bar.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by lakewoodhobo; 29 March 2011 at 12:54 PM.

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    The Thomas Building is a great candidate for residential conversion, but it's forgotten due to its location (and with the surrounding buildings/narrow streets it doesn't get a lot of sunlight). I like your idea, but a plaza probably isn't needed in this area; one block north is AT&T Plaza, and one block south is Pioneer Plaza. Building a 5-6 story terraced residential/retail structure on this block (connected to the Thomas Building) with a prominent architectural feature on the corner would probably be the best use (including underground parking). There's not much retail in this area. There's already a small plaza on the west side of the Thomas Building (and behind) which could be enhanced for residential or retail uses.

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    The (now) empty lot once contained the 1911 Cotton Exchange Tower, which received a new facade in the late 1950s.

    The Thomas Building was built to supplement a new Cotton Exchange Tower, but when the new building was constructed on the other side of downtown (San Jacinto/St Paul) the Thomas Building became a general office building.




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    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DFWCRE8TIVE
    Here's some other history on this land parcel: http://forum.dallasmetropolis.com/sh...4&page=2&pp=50
    Cool. Thanks for that link!

    I agree that ideally the lot would be higher-density residential with a higher percentage of retail than what I proposed, but the reason I think this plaza would be more successful than AT&T plaza and Pioneer Plaza is the orientation of the building facing an older structure with columns (the Fed). I believe you went on a trip to Europe recently and surely saw how many small plazas face buildings like this one. There would be no other plaza in Dallas like it, and it would be enhanced by the (human-scale) narrow streets that hide these buildings to begin with.

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    I definitely think a small plaza facing the old Federal Reserve is appropriate and would provide great views of the building and allow for outdoor dining in front of a sculpture/fountain, it just doesn't need to be very large. Ideally you'd have a building that met the corner of Akard/Wood, but angled back to add plaza space, or it could be a small corner plaza with outdoor seating. A modern design would distinguish it from the Thomas Building and bring some color/variety to the corner.



    or the incorporation of old/new could look something like this:


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    High-Rise Member cmacemm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DFWCRE8TIVE
    I definitely think a small plaza facing the old Federal Reserve is appropriate and would provide great views of the building and allow for outdoor dining in front of a sculpture/fountain, it just doesn't need to be very large. Ideally you'd have a building that met the corner of Akard/Wood, but angled back to add plaza space, or it could be a small corner plaza with outdoor seating. A modern design would distinguish it from the Thomas Building and bring some color/variety to the corner.



    or the incorporation of old/new could look something like this:

    I love that second picture. I wish there were more new developments going with the older brick style

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    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    ^I actually prefer the first picture because it would contrast so dramatically with the historic buildings next to it. I love the older brick style as well, but with so many empty lots in the West End now, that's where you would put new brick buildings.

    Anyway, here is an updated design with an expanded retail/residential building and smaller plaza:


  8. #8
    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    I was walking through this area the other day (and around the Thomas Building) and was reminded of this idea. Hopefully the Thomas Building will see new life soon.

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    Super Moderator cowboyeagle05's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfwcre8tive View Post
    I was walking through this area the other day (and around the Thomas Building) and was reminded of this idea. Hopefully the Thomas Building will see new life soon.
    That leads me to wonder if you know something some of us dont about the future of the Thomas building...

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    Are there any senior housing projects downtown? This could be a candidate.

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    Any senior projects near downtown will cluster around Baylor, UTSW/Parkland, and Presbyterian. Downtown is too much of hassle. The city still wins. I have always said that people that only see Mockingbird Station as TOD are looking through a 25 years old person's view. The hospitals are the Godzillas of TOD, all located at stations, and all will be massive centers of commercial and residential activity. They won't be cool bars or patios, but will have a huge impact on the financial health of the city. You can keep Museum Tower, Convention Center Hotel, LED displays, etc. They are strictly sideshows. The action is medical. That is where Dallas will win.

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    Feisty Ol' Coot hamiltonpl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjblazin View Post
    Any senior projects near downtown will cluster around Baylor, UTSW/Parkland, and Presbyterian. Downtown is too much of hassle. The city still wins. I have always said that people that only see Mockingbird Station as TOD are looking through a 25 years old person's view. The hospitals are the Godzillas of TOD, all located at stations, and all will be massive centers of commercial and residential activity. They won't be cool bars or patios, but will have a huge impact on the financial health of the city. You can keep Museum Tower, Convention Center Hotel, LED displays, etc. They are strictly sideshows. The action is medical. That is where Dallas will win.
    I just have to say thank you for this positive post. That was amazing.
    DAGNABBIT!

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    Skyscraper Member ChampionDallas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfwcre8tive View Post


    or the incorporation of old/new could look something like this:

    Wish that I could see the second picture. Definitely don't want anything like the first picture.

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cowboyeagle05 View Post
    That leads me to wonder if you know something some of us dont about the future of the Thomas building...
    No, I haven't heard anything about it in a long time. It seems this one gets forgotten. Anyone know who owns it?

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    Owners of 88-year-old Thomas Building want to raze it, and preservationists don’t think they can stop the wrecking ball
    By Robert Wilonsky
    rwilonsky@dallasnews.com
    7:32 am on October 22, 2012
    http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2...surprise.html/

    Just a little over a month ago, our Steve Brown offered a small glimmer of hope for the 88-year-old Thomas Building on Wood Street — “the last downtown Dallas relic from the days when cotton was king,” as Steve put it. Wrote Steve, the North Carolina-based group that owns the one-time next-door neighbor to the late, great Dallas Cotton Exchange was in the process of protecting the vacant building from further deterioration, both inside and out. Which was good news for preservationists who’ve long feared its inevitable demise.

    But the good news may turn out to be short-lived.

    According to city records, on Friday Dallas Demolition filed a demolition permit for 1314 Wood Street, which sits directly across a parking lot from the glorious old Federal Reserve Building. Sources familiar with the situation say the owners, Charlotte-based HPI Capital, were red-flagged by the city for violating the 4-year-old vacant building ordinance, and rather than deal with the high price of asbestos abatement and a lawsuit from the city, HPI has decided to raze the building. Preservationists with whom I spoke this weekend believe the owners originally intended to demolish the building over the weekend, and worry the city will issue the permit as early as today.

    ...

    The city’s permitting website says the demo permit has been “canceled,” which happened only after city staffers ID’d the address as a historic structure. But one person who’s been in the building recently said Sunday it’s in awful shape; the basement, which housed a gym upon completion, had been flooded repeatedly, and it’s been broken into more times than the owners can count. “It’s one issue after another,” said someone familiar with HPI’s side of the story. “It’s been a total nightmare for the owners and the city.”

    The Thomas Building isn’t a city-designated landmark, and thus has no protection from the wrecking ball. Per the Historic Preservation Ordinance, the city council, City Plan Commission or the Landmark Commission could initiate designation proceedings against the owner’s wishes, which would put the demo on hold. It happened in 1999, when then-council member Veletta Lill stopped in front of the wrecking ball aimed at the old Dallas High School. But that led to years’ worth of legal battles over the building that, despite promises of an imminent redo, still stands vacant at Pearl and Bryan.

    Four years ago, then-Mayor Tom Leppert and City Attorney Tom Perkins singled out the Thomas Building as one of the vacant downtown buildings in need of saving or scraping. At the time, preservationists hailed the initiative to clean up downtown’s deteriorating properties, but warned of the initiative’s unintended consequences — the demolition of buildings owners said would be too pricey to protect.

    “We’re finding that out now, definitely,” Preziosi said Sunday evening. “We’re going to ask the city to amend the vacant building ordinance buildings so that it doesn’t apply to buildings in contributing historic districts. If we can’t do that, we’ll ask for 30 days to review permits to look at the significance of the building and see if we can find alternate ways to save the building, to at least buy a little more time. This developer, we approached him in June, when they were starting their abatement, and they told us they weren’t going to demolish the building. Obviously, that wasn’t true at that point. We felt the building wasn’t endangered at that point, and now it certainly is with them asking for demolition on a Friday afternoon, which is unfortunate.

    The Thomas Building, he said, is “significant,” because of when it was built and why, “and we don’t have many of those left.” But he acknowledges something often said by fans of the building: Because of where it is, in a seldom-traveled section of downtown, people just don’t know it’s where or what it used to be or why it matters.

    “It doesn’t sit with a row of historic buildings, which makes it difficult,” he said. “People just don’t see it. If nothing else, we can use this to call attention to the building and the ordinance.

    City officials will meet this morning to discuss the would-be demolition. And messages have been left for Dallas Demolition to see how it intends to proceed.

    More to come.


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    Low-Rise Member DP Scott Dorn's Avatar
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    The Thomas Building downtown Dallas To come down

    This one hurts!!! 88 years of history to come down apparently.

    http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2...ut-below.html/
    all for a damn parking lot SIGH!!!

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    High-Rise Member cmacemm's Avatar
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    wow...a parking lot? Seriously?!?!

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    Low-Rise Member DP Scott Dorn's Avatar
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    Yep!!! I luckily took a bunch of photos of it I have alway want to go inside this one. such a damn shame. I guess I won't be able to now. UGHHH!!

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    Low-Rise Member DP Scott Dorn's Avatar
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    here are some I have taken over the years http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdorn/2...7631837038838/

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    Quote Originally Posted by DP Scott Dorn View Post
    This one hurts!!! 88 years of history to come down apparently.

    http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2...ut-below.html/
    all for a damn parking lot SIGH!!!
    Terrible, just terrible. Living in Austin I try to defend Dallas, but moments like this make me want to give up. Does no one understand the intrinsic value of historical structures? After living in so many other cities across the globe that go out of their way to protect whatever history they have, I just can't understand how the city of Dallas has allowed almost all remains of the cotton industry to become parking lots. Lets just say that I take relatives to the stockyards or drive down South Congress as an envious Dallasite. We have little standing proof of the industry that helped make Dallas, other than the Cotton Bowl.

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    this is terrible. why doesn't someone in city hall do something? angela hunt, help!

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    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    Speaking of the cotton industry... why hasn't Dallas reclaimed ANY commodities exchange?

    Cotton, Oil, Natural Gas, Grain

    sorry for the topic interruption...

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    Low-Rise Member DP Scott Dorn's Avatar
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    Tam i don't know I wondered that myself.

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    Uptown Member DallasMan's Avatar
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    So sad. This is probably Dallas' last link to the big cotton days. What a missed opportunity - combining a restored building with the rest of this lot, they could have really had quite a property. Now, I'm afraid we'll have "more parking!"

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    Skyscraper Member muncien's Avatar
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    According to tax rolls, this building comes in at about 650K. I'm a little surprised there isn't an individual/group willing to pony up the $ to acquire and clean up this property. Just because the current owner can't afford to do so, doesn't mean it can't be done. It's got great bones and is in a great location. I'm curious if the owner would even sell for that price. It's hard to imagine an empty parking lot being worth that.
    http://www.dallasact.com/act_webdev/...0000&ownerno=0

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    Incoherent Rambler grantboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ancientshoes View Post
    this is terrible. why doesn't someone in city hall do something? angela hunt, help!
    Even Preservation Dallas seems to agree this is a byproduct of the "law of unintended consequences" of city ordinances on this issue. At this point, the 'best' outcome is that it focuses attention on correcting city ordinances to stop this kind of thing from repeating.

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    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    I didn't know you could continue tearing down buildings downtown for parking lots (why 807 Elm / old Awalt Building is a patch of grass). How is this allowed, especially for a building that clearly contributed to the Dallas economy in its day? What's next, the old Fed Reserve?

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    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    thread merge.

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    do you think this is more of a game of chicken, a la 508 Park?

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    Member Kingpin's Avatar
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    only in dallas

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    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    Why wasn't this building locally protected from demolition? Those steps should have been initiated years ago when the owners agreed to save it.

    Several parties to blame here: the City for not initiating Landmark status, the owners for being deceptive during the process, and Preservation Dallas for not standing up against the demolition. It's a pattern we've seen over and over again downtown, and yet it's always a surprise when it happens.

    The end result: a pile of bricks hauled to the landfill and another tiny parking lot that will do nothing to make downtown a better place.

  32. #32
    Administrator dfwcre8tive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lakewoodhobo View Post
    I didn't know you could continue tearing down buildings downtown for parking lots (why 807 Elm / old Awalt Building is a patch of grass). How is this allowed, especially for a building that clearly contributed to the Dallas economy in its day? What's next, the old Fed Reserve?
    This one's not in a historic district or a designated Landmark (although that didn't stop 807 Elm in the West End Historic District). Blame it on owners not having the creativity (or the willingness) to improve the neighborhood. Once it's gone you'll probably never see a building with the quality of materials or density built on that site.

    Unless things change I predict a similar fate for 211 North Ervay, unfortunately.

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    There are few things more pathetic than a bunch of whiners complaining about how other people spend their money. If this building is so important to you, pool your funds, put together a business plan, get a loan and go buy it. But until you are ready to put your money where your mouth is, it really is none of your business what they do with the building THEY own.

    They took the risk in buying a dilapidated building in downtown Dallas. How many of you can say the same thing?

  34. #34
    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hannibal Lecter View Post
    There are few things more pathetic than a bunch of whiners complaining about how other people spend their money. If this building is so important to you, pool your funds, put together a business plan, get a loan and go buy it. But until you are ready to put your money where your mouth is, it really is none of your business what they do with the building THEY own.
    Then I should be able to open a nasty, trashy car wash and liquor store right outside your property. If it's MY property and MY money, I should have that right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by lakewoodhobo View Post
    Then I should be able to open a nasty, trashy car wash and liquor store right outside your property. If it's MY property and MY money, I should have that right?
    Well, no, the common law--and current statuory law--has long enforced so-called "nuissance" violations. (Which I'm guessing you already knew.) Still, the point is well worth making: property rights are not absolute.

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    Uptown Member DallasMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dfwcre8tive View Post
    Several parties to blame here: the City for not initiating Landmark status, the owners for being deceptive during the process, and Preservation Dallas for not standing up against the demolition. It's a pattern we've seen over and over again downtown, and yet it's always a surprise when it happens.
    Unfortunately, this is exactly right. I think PD should have been more aggressive in getting an extension of their "no demo" agreement in writing, and if that was unsuccessful, should have started the landmark process. What a shame to lose this beautiful building, with such potential.

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    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ersatz View Post
    Just because it is old does not make it worth saving on that merit alone.
    Old does not make it worth saving, but old and rare does.

  38. #38
    Administrator tamtagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ersatz View Post
    This is not great architecture.
    I think that architecture is fantastic!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdorn/2...7631837038838/

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    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ersatz View Post
    PROGRESS. FOWARD.
    They want to expand the adjacent parking lot. You call that progress. I could not disagree more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ersatz View Post
    Just because it is old does not make it worth saving on that merit alone. The land owner has the right to develop their property. The city and non owners meddling in private property will result in a dangerous abandoned building that sits there forever. PROGRESS. FOWARD.
    A major part of the poor reception is the owner's planned future use for the site: a parking lot. Parking lots are unsightly enough in suburban malls; they're ugly at best, "livliness-killing" at worst in a city's urban core.

    So it's the guy's private property and he can do what he wants with it. Fine. But I still don't have to like his choice, or the circumstances that led to unrestricted ownership of an historic building. And I'd feel better about it if, simultaneous to the demolition, a nearby parking lot was being converted into a replacement building (not unlike the replacement of sports stadium).

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    Uptown Member DallasMan's Avatar
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    Local government regulates property use all the time, and thank goodness for that, this is Dallas not Houston. Anyone that lives in a Conservation District in Dallas would be well aware of regulations on property use. Actually, anyone who lives anywhere in Dallas would be aware of restrictions on property use...it's called zoning.

    I absolutely agree that just b/c a building is old does not make it worth saving. However, a building such as this, with historical significance and with such potential for redevelopment, being replaced for another parking lot, is not progress - in fact, it is the mindset of 1980s Dallas, a time period which led to the near death of downtown.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DallasMan View Post
    Local government regulates property use all the time, and thank goodness for that, this is Dallas not Houston. Anyone that lives in a Conservation District in Dallas would be well aware of regulations on property use. Actually, anyone who lives anywhere in Dallas would be aware of restrictions on property use...it's called zoning.

    I absolutely agree that just b/c a building is old does not make it worth saving. However, a building such as this, with historical significance and with such potential for redevelopment, being replaced for another parking lot, is not progress - in fact, it is the mindset of 1980s Dallas, a time period which led to the near death of downtown.
    Here, here.

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    well, really your talking apples and oranges. 807 Elm, was in terrible condition and quite frankly a hazard, I personally wouldn't even walk on the sidewalk in front of it because I Know what the structure was like holding it up, a rested set of scaffolding and rotted out 4 x 4's. The floor slabs all the way up the building had separated from the column supports etc... It would have cost 3 times the cost to tear it down and start of to repair, no one is going to do that, there is a point when finances over rule heart. On this building, it is decent shape as far as I could tell the times I have been through it. A big deal has been made of the basement flooding and destroying all the mechanical and electrical. Yes, so what, in a renovation you would have replaced it anyway. Unfortunately it's tucked away unseen hidden by so many larger structures it's never found anyone willing to buy it, not that the owner has been very willing to sell. A few have commented on what the inside might look like, for the most part it is pretty unremarkable save for a couple really nice paneled offices with nice fireplaces. Otherwise, pretty much your run of the mill 40-50's looking office space. The owners had made a "gentleman's agreement" with Pres-Dallas not to tear it down for 5 years to allow time to try and finds a buyer but nothing has come about. They are more worried about liability issues I am sure.

    As for 211 Ervay, I really think there is hope for that building, there is a good deal of interest in it, just with the economy and financing right now, it is pretty tough but I do think someone will do something with it unless the city pushes for demo. Honestly, it is in the city's hands to some degree. They seem to want it for a park, they can throw a lot of roadblocks out there making it very hard to do anything with it or the ycan work with someone.

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    Super Moderator lakewoodhobo's Avatar
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    What baffles me is that someone thinks it makes financial sense to demolish this building in order to gain, at the most, 40 parking spaces. I'm sure someone smarter than me can do the math but at $100/mo per parking space, that's a whopping $48,000 a year the owners would make from the newly created parking spaces.

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    ^ Add the six-digit savings not having to insure and maintain an empty building.

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    I kind of wish they would make surface-lots illegal in downtown. But i'm sure there are some ramifications with doing that.

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    Feisty Ol' Coot hamiltonpl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xen0blue View Post
    I kind of wish they would make surface-lots illegal in downtown. But i'm sure there are some ramifications with doing that.
    They could add an extra parking lot tax, but that would probably just make parking more expensive. We have far too many surface lots for the downtown area of a major city.
    DAGNABBIT!

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    102_0748.jpg

    Dallas Demolition is bringing this down.

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    Low-Rise Member DP Scott Dorn's Avatar
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    They are going to implode it next weekend.

  50. #50
    Skyscraper Member ChampionDallas's Avatar
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    I wish the cartouche and cast stone façade would be preserved. That type of cast stone reminds me so much of London/Paris.

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