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Jan 10, 2007

Comments

Michael Davis

Did I hear that the sale of the Old Y on Worth would be used for a revolving fund by Preservation Dallas to save old buildings? Thought I heard that on Ch. 8 or 5 this week...

Veletta Forsythe Lill

Yes.

Rick Wamre

That's all great news - thanks for the update, Veletta.

Norman Alston

Every few years we do this; lose a good building and wonder why it wasn't protected. Then we take action to help prevent it from happening again only to find a few years later that the door was shut but not bolted, so we've lost another. First it was the Cotton Exhange Building downtown which prompted an update and expansion to the resource survey for downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Then it was Dr. Pepper and major improvements to the preservation ordinance. And now the Haskell "Y". What will our response be this time? I am now aware that the Planning Department is preparing a list of similarly endangered, unprotected and perhaps forgotten or obscure properties, apparently as a preemptive step.

For those who would like to stop this cycle, I suggest we let Council know. This will not be as effective as desired if Angela Hunt is the only one getting this mail. Oh, and we've got a collection of Mayoral candidates, too.

veletta forsythe lill

Norm makes good points here. First of all, Dallas’ historic preservation program, including the planning and incentives, compares very favorably across the country. Indeed, we are a national leader in our conservation district program, but that is another story. We have also learned from the loss, or near loss, of previous buildings.

It must be remembered that historic preservation is a community consensus building process. The existing programs have been built through years of working together, with education as a key component to ensuring success. Educating the public, the development community, appointed officials, and elected officials has helped us build a strong program. We must continue to educate the community, not only about our rich heritage, but about the economic viability of preservation.

Finally, buildings have constituencies and it is important to define those constituencies. Texas is a state with a strong commitment to property rights. When a property owner says “no, thank you” to historic designation the discussion changes. The city has the right to designate a property over a property owner’s objection, however, that process will become a lot more contentious. The constituency for the building will provide the army to validate the importance of the historic building and to attend what may be an endless round of meetings. For example, Dallas High School (aka Crozier Tech) alumni have been the conscience and constituency for the building. In their dedication they have sat through well over 60 public meetings to make certain that the building was not demolished. To sustain that sort of effort there will need to be many people, elected and otherwise, who believe
in our history and our future.

Jeff Siegel

Wow. 15 comments. Guess preservation remains a topic a lot of people care about. I don't especially disagree with anything anyone has written (and sorry for the delay -- I was out of town). What has always confused me is why there is so much disagreement about the subject. It has always seemed straightforward to me. The Dr Pepper building should have been saved, and a lot of people didn't want to save it. To me, there just doesn't seem to be any legitimate excuse for that kind of attitude.

veletta forsythe lill

Since I was not on the Dallas City Council at the time of the Dr. Pepper debate, designation, nor demolition I cannot testify to the discussion. However, as a sponsor of the 2000 updated landmark ordinance I can say that the revisions were made so that we could avoid circumstances such as we experienced with the Dr. Pepper building. To extract from a Fall 1999 edition of "The Dallas County Chronicle," then Preservation Dallas Executive Director Catherine Horsey wrote, “By the time the Dr. Pepper building was demolished 3 years ago, after being designated a City of Dallas landmark, it had become very clear that revisions must be made to Dallas’ historic preservation ordinance…Under the 26-year-old ordinance, landmark buildings are not protected from demolition, although the Landmark Commission and City Council can impose a moratorium on demolition of up to 240 days.”

In January 2000 the Dallas City Council unanimously adopted an updated ordinance that included provisions requiring owners of historic properties to prove economic hardship or a threat to public safety before a demolition would be allowed. These provisions of the ordinance would have protected the Dr. Pepper building. The ordinance also outlawed the “demolition by neglect,” streamlined standards for designation, and allowed for the creation of a future historic preservation fund. The 2000 ordinance has been repeatedly tested in court and stands as a model.

It is important that everyone understand that only a City of Dallas landmark designation protects a building from demolition. Also, a building is protected in pre-designation for 2 years (which can be extended) while the designation report and process are completed. Properties that are listed in the National Register are NOT protected from demolition.

In previous posts I have mentioned the importance of education in the overall historic preservation program. I continue to believe that it is one of the most important components of a preservation program. I hope that your publication can play a role in educating the community.

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