There have been some questions about where we go from here after the tragic demolitions downtown and what Preservation Dallas is planning to do. So we thought we would let everyone know what we are working on.
Since Monday we have:
This past Monday the majority of our regularly scheduled Executive Committee meeting was spent discussing the situation and crafting the media response. An additional full board meeting has been scheduled for next Tuesday to further discuss the issue and to work on developing strategies to address the issue of the lack of protection for historic buildings in downtown.
We are also working on putting together a Public Forum on the future of our historic buildings downtown. The location and date are still being worked out; however, we are planning it for some time the week of October 6th. We will be inviting our partner organizations, the City, Preservation Dallas members, downtown developers, downtown residents, and anyone else who wants to come. We will send out a notice for the meeting when it is scheduled.
People have also been asking us what they can do to help. At this stage the biggest help would be speaking up about the horrific demolitions, the loss of our history, and the need for more protections for historic buildings in downtown. Let your Council Member or City Hall know how you feel! Our elected officials will need convincing to approve new protections for historic buildings in downtown. A wide base of public support from many people and groups will be crucial to enact stronger protections! You can also take the one question poll that D Magazine is conducting on whether or not there should be more protections for buildings downtown.
Both the staff and board of Preservation Dallas are working as hard and as fast as we can to address this issue. We have been advocating for years for better protections for historic buildings and as tragic as this situation is, it may be the driving force for the greater Dallas community to let the City of Dallas know that our historic buildings are important enough to protect.
We greatly appreciate everyone’s support and with it we know we can make a difference!
PREVIOUS POST, SEPT. 23 –
What began as the demolition of a single historic building on Sunday the 21st has spread like a cancer to neighboring buildings between Main and Commerce Streets. Headington Companies, owner of the Joule, wantonly destroyed a part of the commercial history of Dallas. They have forever erased some of the last three-story historic commercial buildings representing commerce in the early twentieth century.
Following the demolition of 1611 Main Street it was discovered that on Friday afternoon before the demolition, Headington had taken out a demolition permit for all the buildings between Main and Elm, and the demolition of 1615 Main Street, and 1608-1614 Elm Street began Monday the 22nd. The demolitions were planned and completed without conversation with Preservation Dallas. In late May 2014, the Dallas Morning News published an article regarding the possible demolition of 1611 Main Street, which prompted repeated attempts to contact Headington. In response, we made numerous attempts to contact Michael Tregoning, the CFO for Headington, through US mail, email, and several voicemails – all of which went unanswered.
In the August 2014 FD Luxe published an article discussing the relocation of Forty Five Ten to downtown Dallas, revealing that the retailer would occupy several historic buildings across from the Joule and adjacent to the Tony Tasset sculpture garden. It appeared from this article that 1611 and 1615 Main Street were the referenced historic buildings and were therefore saved from demolition. Obviously, we and the public were misled by the article. Headington deliberately demolished the buildings without any public discourse on the importance of the buildings to Dallas, alternatives to demolition, or why the buildings could not be reused.
All of the buildings were listed as a Contributing structures in the Dallas Downtown National Register Historic District, meaning they had a great deal of integrity and contributed to the overall importance of the National Register District. While important, this designation is not enough to provide legal protection to threatened buildings facing the wrecking ball. Legal protection from demolition only comes from designation as a City of Dallas Landmark or a location in a protected City of Dallas Landmark District; these buildings were neither, as is the case for many historic buildings in downtown Dallas.
It is truly heartbreaking when Dallas deliberately loses pieces of its history, especially given the historic integrity and importance of the buildings as representative examples of historic commercial architecture in downtown Dallas. These buildings stood for over one hundred years seeing the growth, decline, and resurgence of downtown Dallas; however, it only took a couple of days for a wrecking ball to turn the venerable structures into debris to be carted off to a landfill.
Unfortunately, it is too late for 1611 Main, 1615 Main, and 1608-1614 Elm Street, but we hope that some good can come out of this situation with a greater public discussion on the importance of our remaining historic buildings in downtown Dallas and what we can do to protect them. In order to prevent this from happening again we need to put increased pressure on the City to designate more buildings in downtown as City of Dallas Landmarks or establish additional City of Dallas Landmark Districts to cover more of downtown. Currently, only a number of buildings downtown are protected through Landmark status or through the Harwood Street Historic District, leaving many significant buildings at risk and without any legal protection. It will take the concerted effort of many to convince the City to establish better protections for downtown’s historic buildings before we lose more of our history to shiny new boxes. Preservation Dallas will continue to highlight the threat of other unprotected historic buildings at risk, collaborate with the City and other stakeholders to develop action plans for implementation by the City of Dallas, and more. This will be an uphill battle and one that we will need support from a broad base of people and organizations.