Museum Tower Update: Is Bad Publicity the Media’s Fault?

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Interesting stories out of the Dallas Morning News and really, everywhere, today on Museum Tower. While we think the two parties, the Nasher Museum and Museum Tower, have been negotiating diligently under the capable eyes of Tom Luce, we first get word today that negotiations may have all but broken down, and that litigation may take place. But then we learn that no, negotiations ARE taking place, reporting was wrong and the letter the story was based on was just CYA. Or something. Herewith:

“An attorney for the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, Gary Lawson, blamed public criticism for the failure of the talks and threatening the $200 million building’s viability.

Purchasers of condominiums have canceled contracts and sales of additional units have been “substantially adversely affected,” Lawson stated in a letter he provided to The Dallas Morning News.”

“Blamed public criticism.” Now there’s an interesting phrase. Is Mr. Lawson saying that media stories are adversely affecting sales? I think he is:

“It is reasonable to anticipate that litigation will take place within the very near term, days if not weeks away,” Lawson wrote.

Sure sounds like a lawsuit:

Richard Tettamant, the pension fund’s administrator, confirmed in an email message Tuesday morning that a lawsuit is being considered. “I believe that the Nasher and the Pension System wish to resolve this issue amicably,” he said in an email, “but we have to protect the Pension System’s and Museum Tower’s legal rights.”

And now the Nasher is not the only one complaining about Museum Tower’s glare: a resident at One Arts Plaza is complaining that the mirrored siding on the new tower gives her a “sharp morning glare that lasts just too long, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.” That is, only when she looks towards the tower from her home. It appears the resident, Petey Parker, works from her home if you look at the photos on her website.

OK, hang on. Later in the day, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System issued a response saying the DMN letter is inaccurate or out of text:

“The Dallas Morning News article about pending litigation is inaccurate. As a result of the Dallas Morning News’ numerous open record requests, we asked the Texas Attorney General to review parts of each request as allowed by law. A copy of that letter was required to be sent to the Dallas Morning News. The letter to the Attorney General is simply a prudent and conservative measure as allowed by law in response to the threat of litigation against Museum Tower as speculated in the press. More importantly, we agree with Mr. Luce’s statement today that last week’s discussions were successful, cordial and professional. We’re confident that the process will continue and we’ll have a positive outcome. The System has not changed its mission to try to resolve this matter in a reasonable and professional manner.”

That’s what I thought: CYA. And Tom Luce says things are (no pun intended) cooking:

“The Nasher Sculpture Center and Museum Tower have worked together in a series of meetings, most recently on Friday, June 22, to develop a number of potential solutions that will mitigate the glare from Museum Tower. Together, we have identified several design solutions that we are continuing to study and discuss. The process has been collegial and professional, with technical teams from both sides working together, and I believe we are close to reaching resolution.”

But then… then over at the Dallas Observer, another letter from Mr. Lawson to the Texas Attorney General spells it out: the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is really ticked off at the local media. They think the reporting is biased, not just slanted towards the Nasher and architect Renzo Piano, but hinting the reporters are embedded with them:

“The Dallas Morning News has engaged in a coordinated campaign to move public opinion toward the Nasher side of that agenda, because your own reporter openly stated he, and by projection your paper, hold the rule of law in disdain. The Dallas Morning News, by this unethical act, has declared its advocacy agenda to influence public opinion with such pejorative fervor against our client in an attempt to force them to change their building.”

There is deep criticism of the way this story has been reported, saying that objective journalism has not taken place. Interestingly, I met with another developer a few weeks ago who told me, and showed me, how he had been mis-quoted in a Dallas Morning News story and when he confronted the reporter, the reporter said well, that was my interpretation of what you said. Mr. Lawson says no one has reported on “other Renzo Piano projects elsewhere around the world that have been embroiled in controversy over his aggressive and purposeful designs that disregard the surrounding community. Likewise they have failed to explore Piano’s flawed analysis of what future effects his buildings may project upon the immediate area.”

It’s hard to be objective as a reporter, really hard. Do you think the Dallas news media has objectively reported on the Museum Tower glass problem? Is the Dallas Morning News (and D Magazine) “not reporting the news, it has and continues to engage in active and unethical advocacy, gleefully acting as a change agent of the Nasher and Piano that is forcing the mediation into failure”? I think both are certainly obligated to tell the story, and report on it — that’s their duty. But have they been biased, or balanced?

 

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Danny says

    IMO-Yes, the DMN reflects what real people think. Key point: “…blamed public criticism for the failure of the talks and threatening the $200 million building’s viability. Purchasers of condominiums have canceled contracts and sales of additional units have been “substantially adversely affected.”

    Hello! We are the public, we live in Uptown, and the new building is destroying why we moved here and bought property in neighborhoods like State Thomas. Public opinion will decide this issue. And right now the developers are loosing. Once the park is completed we will need sunshades not only for ourselves, but our pets! 🙂

  2. Danny says

    IMO-Yes, the DMN reflects what real people think. Key point: “…blamed public criticism for the failure of the talks and threatening the $200 million building’s viability. Purchasers of condominiums have canceled contracts and sales of additional units have been “substantially adversely affected.”

    Hello! We are the public, we live in Uptown, and the new building is destroying why we moved here and bought property in neighborhoods like State Thomas. Public opinion will decide this issue. And right now the developers are loosing. Once the park is completed we will need sunshades not only for ourselves, but our pets! 🙂

  3. Peter Gentry says

    It is not the media's fault I thought the DMN piece well balanced D's less so. It is the fault of bad,sloppy judgement quick decisions and a disastrous lending market. Timing is everything. Had the tower been financed conventionally, I doubt it would have been turned into the Jolly Glass Giant. If they would have started six months sooner…

  4. Peter Gentry says

    It is not the media's fault I thought the DMN piece well balanced D's less so. It is the fault of bad,sloppy judgement quick decisions and a disastrous lending market. Timing is everything. Had the tower been financed conventionally, I doubt it would have been turned into the Jolly Glass Giant. If they would have started six months sooner…

  5. BILL GRIFFIN says

    I have not ever heard what the solutions they are working on are. Is it to somehow modify the exterior of the MT? If so what are the options? It seems to me they just give the same patent answer over and over again which is that thy are in discussions and that MT is being unfairly reported on.

    Offer up some solutions and/or defend why the claims are unfair. Something has got to give sooner or later.

    To make the statement that the reporting is hurting sales and the pension fund is of course stating the obvious. I have been through the building recently and from the inside looking out it is a beautiful building with amazing views. I hope a reasonable resolution will be reached. Btw it seems that modifying the Nasher should be looked into as well.

  6. BILL GRIFFIN says

    I have not ever heard what the solutions they are working on are. Is it to somehow modify the exterior of the MT? If so what are the options? It seems to me they just give the same patent answer over and over again which is that thy are in discussions and that MT is being unfairly reported on.

    Offer up some solutions and/or defend why the claims are unfair. Something has got to give sooner or later.

    To make the statement that the reporting is hurting sales and the pension fund is of course stating the obvious. I have been through the building recently and from the inside looking out it is a beautiful building with amazing views. I hope a reasonable resolution will be reached. Btw it seems that modifying the Nasher should be looked into as well.

  7. Phil Carlowe says

    You buy a lot next door to a home that is a one story ranch. You build a towering, tall home as large as you can legally squeeze onto your lot. The little one story ranch next door complains you are towering over her, looking into her windows, obstructing her views, maybe even affecting her sunlight. Her grass cannot grow on 1/3rd of her lot because of the shade created by your tall new home.

    This scenario happens ALL THE TIME in real estate. Ask any real estate attorney. The people who come into the neighborhood first think they can call the shots for the newcomers. I call it "Squatters Fever". The Nasher was there first, did they really think no one would ever move next door to them?

    Ah, you say, they built MT Tower taller than the original plans. Why? Because they wanted to maximize return for their investors. The recession blew up on these people like a Blue Norther. I am tired of all the moaning about the Fireman Fund yada making a bad investment. Shows how unsophisticated some are — the same fund bought other downtown Dallas real estate, yet you never hear about that! It is very common for funds to buy commercial real estate in a non-performing stock market.

    The real question is who was on the city planning committee who agreed to make MT taller without checking the ramifications? Make them pay for new glass or the protect/relocate the Nasher. Piano is a prima donna architect, of course he's going to whine. The media fed into it hook, line and sinker.

  8. Phil Carlowe says

    You buy a lot next door to a home that is a one story ranch. You build a towering, tall home as large as you can legally squeeze onto your lot. The little one story ranch next door complains you are towering over her, looking into her windows, obstructing her views, maybe even affecting her sunlight. Her grass cannot grow on 1/3rd of her lot because of the shade created by your tall new home.

    This scenario happens ALL THE TIME in real estate. Ask any real estate attorney. The people who come into the neighborhood first think they can call the shots for the newcomers. I call it "Squatters Fever". The Nasher was there first, did they really think no one would ever move next door to them?

    Ah, you say, they built MT Tower taller than the original plans. Why? Because they wanted to maximize return for their investors. The recession blew up on these people like a Blue Norther. I am tired of all the moaning about the Fireman Fund yada making a bad investment. Shows how unsophisticated some are — the same fund bought other downtown Dallas real estate, yet you never hear about that! It is very common for funds to buy commercial real estate in a non-performing stock market.

    The real question is who was on the city planning committee who agreed to make MT taller without checking the ramifications? Make them pay for new glass or the protect/relocate the Nasher. Piano is a prima donna architect, of course he's going to whine. The media fed into it hook, line and sinker.

  9. The Dallas Museum Tower Itself says

    haha! what do you guys want them to do? tear down 200 million dollars? how about we build another sky skyscraper close by to block direct sun light from hitting!? I'm sure the glare is only going to be a problem in the summer time due to the positioning or the sun. and if its the anti skyscraper people then your in the wrong city because dallas is only building up! but i doubt we have to many people like that in our city, they should be long gone by now since 1985 when the green giant was built and even then people didnt like the green neon at night. But yes the did build a giant mirror.

  10. The Dallas Museum Tower Itself says

    haha! what do you guys want them to do? tear down 200 million dollars? how about we build another sky skyscraper close by to block direct sun light from hitting!? I'm sure the glare is only going to be a problem in the summer time due to the positioning or the sun. and if its the anti skyscraper people then your in the wrong city because dallas is only building up! but i doubt we have to many people like that in our city, they should be long gone by now since 1985 when the green giant was built and even then people didnt like the green neon at night. But yes the did build a giant mirror.

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