Dallas Landmark Commission Votes to Preserve Meadows Building, Delays on Victorian in The Cedars

The Iconic Meadows Building

What do new owners GlenStar have planned for the iconic Meadows Building?

The past year has been full of firsts for me at 1500 Marilla. First there was the Planning Commission (who, as unpaid appointees, I wonder how the commissioners live) and then a full council session. Today I was last-minuted into attending a meeting of the Dallas Landmark Commission. Each new experience in the Dallas City Council chambers has had its own frustrations … and free wifi.

Today’s agenda tipped the scales at 420 pages … yes, 420 pages. If I was ever going to start a 4:20 habit, wading through this agenda might’ve been a catalyst.

Anyway, the lion’s share of the agenda is for small, relatively piddly things … lots and lots of piddly things. Paint colors on historic structures, window restoration techniques, fence construction, brick repair, landscaping … every piddly decision an owner needs approved because they own a protected structure. Adding to the agenda’s bulk were pictures, paint chips and drawings for every morsel of work needing approval. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fine and right things someone has to do, but to someone not part of it all, piddly.

Luckily for us all, those types of decisions and deliberations are/were done in a work session before the Landmark Commission hit the horseshoe … otherwise we’d all need a 4:20 the size of a Sequoia tree.

Former Rosenfield Home in The Cedars

Former Rosenfield Home in The Cedars

First up of the big issues was the former Rosenfield home at 1423 W. Griffin in the Cedars. That’s the dilapidated 1880s home that was to have been torn down by Time-Warner Cable to expand their existing neighboring hub and parking lot. The city stepped in and dropped its fate into today’s meeting. As per usual, behind the scenes negotiations have been ongoing since we were all made aware of the situation by Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Morning News on Jan. 9.

Seems Time-Warner wants to be a good neighbor and has offered to pay the estimated $140,000 for the transport of the Rosenfield home (they’ll even put up a plaque on the original site). Its new home will not be the Dallas Heritage Village (no money to take it on), but rather to a new site just nine blocks away. Time-Warner’s timetable is to have the home moved before March 8, but is amenable to reasonable delays. If everything falls apart, then Time-Warner will be forced to seek a demolition permit … something no one, not even Time-Warner, wants.

Seems simple, right? Well, there’s a wrinkle. Seems if the city granted landmark status on the building, moving it would be a lot more red-taped. Remember the 420 pages of largely piddly stuff? If the home was landmarked, they’d be part of some future 420-page agenda before the Landmark Commission.

So the Commission rightly nixed placing the home on the landmark list for now, giving Time-Warner breathing room to get the deal done to move the home.

Of course even this wasn’t as easy and obvious as it should have been. Several folks, including Preservation Dallas still wanted the landmark status regardless of the illogicality of it (Jon: See Preservation Dallas’ comment below. Apparently my newbie-ness misunderstood their position). Several speakers got up to yammer on about the home’s historic value. I get that, but seriously, one was enough. I don’t enjoy the same facts being repeated by different voices, it numbs more than it changes minds.

And one woman baffled me. Her riff was on the importance of preserving the Jewish heritage of the area. Fine. But she admitted to only being aware of it after reading about the home during the past month … even though she claimed to drive past the home every day. I always wonder about how recently uncovered facts suddenly become so important. It’s like the Antiques Roadshow when Nana’s hideous garage sale picture suddenly becomes a cherished heirloom hot-footed to Christie’s once it’s appraised for $40,000.

In the end the correct decision was made given the today’s circumstances. Give Time-Warner and the lot owner time to work out a good outcome for the home without the rigmarole of red tape. Now if they can’t work it out, then there are other measures to be taken to save the Rosenfield home.

Score one for Robert Wilonsky.

The left arm is gone.

The Meadows’ left arm is already gone.

The Meadows Building

Last summer, Chicago-based GlenStar Properties and USAA closed on the 10.3-acre Energy Square development that includes the eminently forgettable Reeder Energy and Davaco buildings. In a separate deal last October, GlenStar purchased the iconic Meadows Building and its 3.8 acres of land from its California owners. The new 14.1-acre tract is bounded by Central, Greenville, University, and Milton.

The approximately 1 million-square-foot Energy Square property reportedly sold for nearly $150 million. Not a bad return on a four year flip by the prior owners who purchased the property for $95 million in 2011 and spent $9 million to spruce it up. Some buildings even received LEED Gold certification in 2013.

The Meadows building is, well, special. Even a jaded Yankee like me can see that just walking by it. A simple Google search will return any number of glowing testimonials on the design aesthetic of the building. A building directory will show many architects … you know, folks who’d be professional-level picky about the building their office was in.

Unfortunately The Meadows has had a rough life. It had a section hacked off and sold to build the Davaco box in 1985. An unplanned security desk was installed in the lobby that mars the original design (don’t they always?). Reports also say that its owner of the past 12 years did little to improve the property.

14-acres of a new Mockingbird Station?

14-acres of a new Mockingbird Station?

Enter GlenStar the supposed white knight of The Meadows. Unfortunately chivalry is dead and every knight has his price. In the Meadows case, it’s the demolition of the remaining original two-story annex wing along Greenville Avenue. As with so many of these redevelopments, it’s for parking.

You see, even though Energy Square is littered with ugly above-ground parking, the Davaco building suddenly has a parking problem. Makes no sense, does it?

It does when you see GlenStar crowing to the Landmark Commission about their success with the Chicago Board of Trade re-do they did. They opened the ground floor to retail and restaurants. With the proximity to DART and the higher rents paid by retail and restaurants, I’m betting GlenStar has similar plans afoot for the Meadows and the rest of Energy Square. Way back in July they were also talking about multi-family residential. Is The Meadows destined for condo-hood topped by swish, heavily patioed restaurants?

In fact, I suspect the long-term plan is to turn Energy Square into another DART-stop destination like Mockingbird Station. And to accomplish all that, parking will be an issue and so GlenStar says The Meadows must lose its other arm to “progress.”

Of course GlenStar is quick to rationalize that the demolition of the annex will be worth it because of all the good they’ll do elsewhere on the site. Why is it that “greater good” arguments irritate me the most? In Hawaii, Starwood Hotels held renovation of other properties ransom in their plans to upend coastal zoning. It took a couple of years, but the Honolulu city council finally said, “no.” Guess who’ll be renovating the hostage properties? Uh huh.

What’s also so far missing are concrete plans on what GlenStar has in mind. They say those plans are 45-60 days away, but surely that time will just be spent making models and coloring inside the lines of their grand plans. They absolutely know what those plans are, they’re just not sharing. After all, mortal me had working drawings for my condo before purchasing. GlenStar didn’t spend close to $200m on property 802 miles from their Chicago HQ without a plan.

Hopefully GlenStar is smart enough to realize the tenor of the room was against them. Perhaps they’ll use those 45-60 days to formulate a Plan B that saves what remains of The Meadows complex. After all, with 14-acres to play with, alternative plans are easy to come by if you are forced to look.

At the end of the day, the Landmark Commissioners voted to send the petition to the designation committee. Two of the Landmark Commissioners are also on that committee and strongly said they’d have a hard time dumping the annex building. GlenStar invited them over for a site tour, doubtless accompanied by much wooing.

We’ll see.

 

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! sharewithjon@candysdirt.com

 

4 Comment

  • I feel cheated…..the agenda that was handed out was only 12 pages, not 420???? Where did you get that?

    • mm

      Landmark Commission website. I’d email you a copy, but it’s 80MB! (You feel cheated? I feel unnecessarily overburdened!) 🙂

  • Jon – I wanted to correct your statement on the position of Preservation Dallas with regard to 1423 W. Griffin. PD’s Exec. Dir. and Chair of our Preservation Issues Cmte. did appear to present facts about the home’s history into the record (along with someone from the Cedars Neighborhood Association and Dallas Heritage Village’s Exec Dir., Melissa Prycer), which is important in creating an official record and to show TWC and the LMC that the home has important history and that the community wants it preserved.

    However, while PD would still like to see the home designated a City of Dallas Landmark, we did in fact support the LMC’s vote to allow time to complete the move of the home 9 blocks within the Cedars, as David Preziosi stated during his comments. We believe the home will still be worthy of designation in its new location, and we have been working for weeks now to assist the interested parties in facilitating that move.

    • mm

      Good to know. I thought it was strange, but those you mention were speaking in the section of the meeting that seemed to be in favor of designating the home. I agree that once moved, designation should be evaluated.