Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preservation Dallas lists 'most endangered' city buildings | Dallas Morning News


07:10 AM CDT on Thursday, July 1, 2010

By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News dflick@dallasnews.com 
Aging DISD buildings topped Preservation Dallas' newest "most endangered" list announced Wednesday, with the group wading into recent controversies over the fate of old schools in Oak Cliff and East Dallas. 
This year's list, unveiled at a news conference in Fair Park, is broader than most in the past – consisting of categories such as "Dallas Public Libraries" or "South Dallas Historic Districts" alongside individual properties. It includes perennial items such as the Crozier Tech and Statler Hilton buildings downtown. 
Wednesday's announcement of the group's fifth list is meant to highlight potential dangers to preservation efforts in Dallas. And the list generated at least one controversy – the owner of one property said it wasn't endangered at all.
The property – the Hickory Street Annex, a collection of 1920s-era buildings that were once a Gulf Oil distribution center – has been redeveloped into commercial and event venues.
The Preservation Dallas list explained that Hickory Street Annex fell within a planned extension of Interstate 30, for which "the majority of the property will be demolished."
But Gary Kaelson, owner of the annex, said only two of the complex's seven buildings were potentially affected and that he thinks minor tweaks the expansion plans would save them.
"I don't think we should be on that list," he said. 
Preservation Dallas director Katherine Seale said representatives of the Hickory Street Annex had applied for inclusion on the most endangered list. But Kaelson said the application was submitted for designation as the organization's "Building of the Year."
Seale said the organization was keeping the Hickory Street Annex on its most endangered list but amended an accompanying statement to note that the complex was not in immediate danger.
 
Wednesday's announcement was attended by residents of Jubilee Park, who said they were there to support efforts to save Oran M. Roberts Elementary School. DISD officials plan to raze the school building and build a replacement nearby.
Norma Hernandez, a Roberts supporter, said her group opposed plans to tear down the school, even though it would be replaced with a $22 million facility.
"The school has a lot of character and a lot of memories, and we do not think it ought to be torn down," she said.
The Roberts building was one of several the preservationist group said was threatened by DISD plans to replace aging facilities. The list also included Adamson High School and the Oak Cliff Christian Church building. School officials want to demolish both buildings, putting a new campus on the church's former location.
Seale called on DISD officials to better communicate with parents and neighbors and suggested that the district sell the structures for redevelopment rather than demolish them.
A DISD spokesman declined to comment, noting that officials who could speak to the subject were on break until mid-July.
Jack Lowe, a DISD trustee, said that historic designation of schools puts pressure on the district budget because it is expensive to update the properties.
"You could give every one of them historic designation if you wanted to, and I don't think that's a very good idea," Lowe said.
Among the properties on this year's list is 508 Park Ave., where bluesman Robert Johnson recorded what is believed to be his last record and which was the target of a demolition application last year. The application was denied.
The list also included the "City of Dallas historic preservation program," which the preservationist organization said was being enfeebled by municipal budget cuts.
The proliferation of broad categories on the list such as DISD schools and the city preservation program was a recognition that changes in policy, rather than targeted salvage efforts, were sometimes a more effective preservationist tool, Seale said.
The 2010 most-endangered list:
-- Historic buildings owned by DISD: Preservation Dallas contends that too many older structures were being targeted for demolition rather than renovation.
-- Crozier Tech: The former Old Dallas High School has appeared on earlier most-endangered lists. It sits vacant near the new AT&T Performing Arts Center.
-- South Dallas historic districts: The preservationist group believes those districts are threatened by a lack of private investment and public funds to restore them.
-- Statler Hilton: Like Crozier Tech, the old downtown hotel has made previous lists. It sits vacant in an area of downtown considered ripe for revitalization.
-- Dallas public libraries: Older branch libraries are being mothballed as replacements are being opened.
"We're asking the city to get a plan together to monitor these buildings and to consider them assets," Seale said. "They just turn the utilities off and board them up. We want them to take a more proactive approach.
"This is a reminder to the city that these are not just surplus properties. They are great works of architecture."
-- Deep Ellum: The third time the area has made the endangered list. The economic downturn has endangered revitalization.
-- 508 Park Avenue and 1900 Young Street: Both buildings have been threatened with demolition within the past year.
-- Elm Street buildings: Three century-old downtown buildings are in the way of the proposed widening of Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
-- City of Dallas preservation program: Threatened by budget cuts.



Hopefully, many of these properties can be saved until the economy recovers and developers can renovate them. Remember to combine Preservation with Sustainability.