Norman Alston Architects is part of Fair Park First, the team recommended for the care and operation of Dallas’ Fair Park National Historic Landmark.
Art conservator examines Lakewood Theater mural.
This is the Santa Fe Building in downtown Amarillo. Formerly the national headquarters of the Santa Fe Railroad, it has been restored/renovated and is currently used for county offices. The 11th floor contains a ballroom that is available for community meetings and it is in this space that the THC quarterly meetings are taking place. The opportunity to visit amazing places like this are one of the reasons I enjoy serving on the THC's Antiquities Advisory Board.
I had the opportunity to visit the shop that will be restoring the neon at the Lakewood Theater over the next couple of months. I was able to get important insights into the historic process of creating neon installations and to watch the final stages of manufacturing for a small "i".
Lakewood Theater restoration begins with the neon.
A tragic fire overnight at the Glasgow School of Art
A video by the good folks at Planning and Urban Design at the City of Dallas. I have the good fortune to know and get to work with several of them.
My journey up through the interior of the Park Cities Baptist Church steeple.
For the first time, The Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has added its voice to the ongoing discussions about the role of historic preservation in our rapidly evolving city. While many AIA members have devoted great time, energy and expertise to preservation efforts over the past several decades, this may represent the first time the profession as a whole has made such a bold statement about the value of our historic resources. It's an important step in a place where so many look to our future, but often at the expense of our past.
I was honored to able to work alongside so many of my colleagues and friends to develop this statement and am grateful to the AIA for their support and encouragement.
A flowing, connected interior—once a fringe experiment of American architectural modernism—has become ubiquitous, and beloved. But it promises a liberation from housework that remains a fantasy. - Ian Bogost, The Atlantic
AIA Dallas issues A Policy Statement on Local Architectural Heritage.
The Dallas Landmark Commission today began a 6 month process of looking for ways to improve the designation process by taking public comments before their regularly scheduled meeting. I saw this as an opportunity to help shape the direction of preservation in Dallas for the near future. Below are the ideas that I presented in person to the Landmark Commission this afternoon.
Thank you Mdme Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Commission.
I would like to preface my comments with an observation. As a preservation architect, I have had very many opportunities to interact with the regulatory side of preservation on the national, state and especially the local level. That experience has led me to the conclusion that the Dallas program is the fairest and most professional in Texas. Today is not the venue to elaborate on those observations, but should be taken as context. I do not consider our program broken in any way, but instead appreciate this opportunity to help the program evolve to meet the needs of an evolving city.
This can be in important step in truly developing a culture of preservation in Dallas. Across much of our city, in both the private and the public sectors, we find ourselves addressing the question of "why would we preserve". Instead, we should seek an environment that begins by asking "why wouldn't we" preserve? Our current program, crafted through the 1970's and 80's, carries a considerable burden to prove out why a building or site should be deemed eligible for Landmark status. I propose that any structure identified for designation that is known to meet a minimum age threshold and perhaps one other readily documented qualification such as architecture or association with a notable person or event, be assumed eligible, and that the burden of documentation be shifted to those who might argue that it is not. The National Register-level documentation that we currently require is an excellent resource, but the effort required to prepare them is considerable and requires research skills that may not be readily available, greatly discouraging applicants and placinig a work load on staff and volunteers that has always been difficult to manage.
Corollary to this, I propose that any building that is already listed on the National Register individually, listed as a contributing structure in a National Register district, or determined likely to be eligible by the SHPO's office be deemed eligible as a Dallas Landmark upon submission of photos or other documentation that confirms substantial historic integrity remains from the time it was so determined.
So much for the easy part.
While it will take time and a lot of input, I believe we need a broader definition of what constitutes historic. I would refer you to recent activities in North Oak Cliff and Deep Ellum, where there is clearly a community character that is widely understood and even cherished. It's a character that is rooted in and reflective of the community history, but not primarily its architectural history. It does not meet the traditional architectural standards for what might be considered an historic district yet is widely considered worthy of some form of preservation. We need a way to help identify and preserve these complex relationships so essential to a vibrant city. The Dallas AIA will, in the next few days, announce the adoption of a policy statement on historic preservation. I was honored to be part of the team that developed this policy and can tell you that it also recognizes and begins to address this need. I look forward to the chance for multiple groups who recognize this need to work together to develop tools to help these communities.
Finally, I do feel it's important to bring up an issue that was revealed to me during the Lakewood Theater's designation effort. The problem lies in the penalty for violations. As currently written, the $2,000/day/violation runs from the beginning of the violation, not from it's discovery or citation. It is possible for a building owner to rack up many millions of dollars in penalties for a violation that was unnoticed and has existed, previously undiscovered for many years. This is not conjecture but has actually happened in other places. The response we have received when noting this has been "We've never done that" or "We wouldn't do that". I doubt any of us would be satisfied with that answer and we shouldn't expect designation applicants to be satisfied either, making this a disincentive to designation for property owners. I would ask that we simply add the language that the penalty starts following a citation and a 30 day cure period.
An interesting article that I have been sitting on too long.
I was honored to be given the opportunity to share my thoughts on this subject with the remarkable Texas Architect Magazine. In here, I especially try to make the point that historic architecture is accessible architecture, you don't have to live in a large, modern city to experience it. Important historic buildings exist in almost every community and the tools we use in the cities are the same ones available to help restore them in smaller towns.
One of the nation's premier state fairs begins today in one of the nation's most beautiful and historic settings! Fried everything. What's not to like? Welcome back, Big Tex!
The Federal Historic Tax Credit has proven to be a powerful incentive to keep and restore our important historic buildings, especially in Texas as documented in this report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued last year. It has been so effective, in fact, that many states, including Texas, have implemented their own state tax credit programs. In the inevitable chaos and maneuvering associated with great change in Washington, our friends at PlaceEconomics have published the following long list of reasons to keep the tax credits:
Reading about recent threats to withhold conventions and sporting events from Texas sites in retaliation against bills currently moving through the Texas legislature, I was reminded of concerns that I had heard surrounding the economics of the Dallas Convention Center. Just how much money are those conventions really worth to our city, and how much does the City make off of them? A quick search turned up an article in D Magazine, written 2 years ago by Wylie H Dallas, that addressed this issue specifically: The Convention Center That Ate Dallas. Other concerns notwithstanding, that doesn't appear, at least on the surface, to be much of a threat. The convention center is a pretty substantial drag on the city budget, a drag that is tolerated in the name of a positive economic impact for support businesses in Dallas.
Is that good enough? If the DCC is a loss-leader for a city strapped to pay for basic maintenance, what if we look at it differently? What would the economic impact be if we got out of the big convention business and allowed all that downtown acreage to be redeveloped as for-profit, property tax paying residential, office, commercial and retail use? A pretty blank slate for modern concepts for walkable, sustainable urban streets. After all, it's right next to the proposed high-speed rail station and very close to the hoped-for Trinity River Park. What if we used that, and maybe another highway deck, to stitch the Cedars back into the downtown urban fabric? Ala the I-345 idea.
What if we took some of the current DCC subsidy and used it to fix Fair Park where it could serve as our convention center? That is, after all, essentially what it was built to do and continues to do to this day. The size and types of conventions we would see would be different, but think of how much better their experience might be. (We may have to move fast on that idea, before someone fills up Fair Park with vertical farming or artist lofts or corporate call centers or something.)
I'll be sitting in my office, goofing off, looking out the window and daydreaming differently about the Convention Center from now on.
Thanks to Place Economics for finding this one. This headline from a story at the Washington Examiner illustrates how tabloid-style "journalism" can creep into seemingly legitimate news feeds and thus utterly distort the reality of working with historic buildings. The story goes on to explain, with little or no detail, how the VA is having difficulty monetizing excess building inventory because of "historic preservation". Given the lack of detail about what is happening, one can only guess about what this refers to. This would only be true if the VA's sole desire is to demolish each and every historic building and market only the land. If that's the case, then God bless historic preservation. What a calloused, lazy approach to real estate that would be. But as for the VA being prohibited from selling or remodeling the buildings - that is utter nonsense. There is a well-established process for transferring public buildings into the private realm. It's known as Section 106.
Been there. Done that. The photograph above is a project where we led the owner and design team through the Section 106 process of selling this 1931 Federal Post Office and Courthouse Building into private ownership (or most of it anyway). It is now a premier, award-winning, multi-family development in downtown Dallas. It even continues to retain the post office. There were challenges for this project, but the Section 106 process wasn't in the top tier. It was more about what you have to do to a Federal building that has been able to ignore local building codes for about 80 years. That's where the brain damage happens.
Scape goats are very convenient and blaming historic preservation for money woes is a tired but still popular approach to finding a back door to getting at something else that building owners actually want.
According to Robert Wilonsky's report, someone may be about to drop a house on the Wicked Ditch of the East (the Trinity Tollway), leaving only the Good Ditch (an urban park).