Tired of Teardowns, Preservationists Form Fund to Buy Up Historic Properties at Risk

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4109 Live Oak
The stately home at 4901 Live Oak was torn down by investors last year. Noted preservationist Virginia McAlester has put together a fund that will keep properties like this one from being razed.

Back in the 1970s, Munger Heights was a seedy neighborhood full of rent-by-the-room boarding houses and dilapidated old homes desperate to be shored up should they catch a stiff breeze. Homeowners and activists saw the area for what it was — full of potential — and created a revolving fund to buy the homes at risk of being lost to a wrecking ball so they could be restored to their historic beauty.

After watching perfectly useful historic homes and buildings being torn down one after the other, Virginia McAlester, Jim Rogers, Lisa Marie Gala, and Neil Emmons said that enough was enough. Together they founded the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) fund.

“The city told us Munger Place could not be saved,” Virginia McAlester, a founder of DEEP, said in this column by Jim Schutze. “They said it met none of the standards that would make it a salvageable neighborhood.”

The founders think that this fund is the best way to preserve properties such as the Lakewood Theater, the mansion on Live Oak that was demolished by developers, the languishing Forest Theater, and help other historic properties such as the Aldredge House that may have funding gaps.

“Instead of education and advocacy, this is building a war chest,” Emmons said, according to the DMN. “In order to control something, one must own it.”

And it’s a successful strategy. The fund would buy up properties in danger, place deed restrictions on it, and then sell them to those who value the character historic homes bring to a city.

“Developing a fund like this is a very worthy endeavor and will be extremely beneficial to saving endangered historic buildings in Dallas,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “Those buildings are a part of our important historic neighborhoods and when we start to lose those individual buildings the historic character of those neighborhoods suffers. We look forward to hearing more about the plans of the new DEEP organization and how we may be able to work with them in the pursuit of saving endangered historic places in Dallas.”

Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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  1. John Sieber says

    It seems to me there is a big opportunity for some of Dallas wealthiest to buy and restore some of these historic sites in order to display their art and antique collections. For example, there used to be a toy museum in Society Hill (1770’s) Philadelphia called the Pearlman Toy Museum which was a private collection open to the public. Some of our super cool 50 contemporaries could hold modern art collections or some of our aging Victorians could house antique toy and doll museums. I just don see that happening here and wish it would.

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