Dallas City Council to Decide on Tax Exemption for Knights of Pythias Rehab

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Rehabilitation of the historic Knights of Pythias building in Deep Ellum is already underway, but developers are asking the City of Dallas to provide tax incentives to make the project more affordable. (Courtesy Photo)
For as long as I can remember, the Knights of Pythias building was a large painted gray mass of Beaux Arts architecture, hulking on the west end of Deep Ellum, boarded up and idle. When the historic rehabilitation began, it was wonderful to see the light gray paint give way to the gorgeous brick and stone underneath, unveiling the true character of this building. 
Of course, rehabilitation of historic structures isn’t cheap, and in the fight to maintain Dallas’ character, one of the best tools that cities have at their disposal are historic preservation tax exemptions and credits. While we bemoan the rash of teardowns and our city’s toothless measures to stay their razings, the key is making rehabilitation more economically viable than destroying the historic fabric of our city’s built environment. 
That’s why Preservation Dallas has put out the call to support tax exemption for the Knights of Pythias developers, Westdale Properties.

On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council will vote on whether or not to give the Knights of Pythias developers a city tax exemption on both the historic portion of the property and the new construction to the rear of the historic Knights of Pythias building. We believe that this tax exemption is warranted and necessary to save one of the most important African American historic resources in Dallas and need your help in the effort to convince City Council to approve the exemption.
The building opened in 1916 in Deep Ellum for the Knights of Pythias, an African American fraternal organization which provided insurance and death benefits. As a social organization they held many events for their organization and the African American community in the fourth floor ballroom. The building also housed offices for African American professionals such as doctors and lawyers. The Beaux Arts style building was designed by William Sydney Pittman who was the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington and the first African American architect in Texas. The building’s historic significance and importance to Dallas was recognized when it was designated a City of Dallas Landmark in 1989.
The building languished until Westdale Properties purchased it for rehabilitation, which they have begun by removing the gray paint from the building. Tax incentives for the project are needed to bridge the financing gap. In addition to the state and federal tax credits for historic rehabilitation, they need the City of Dallas historic tax exemption to properly rehabilitate the historic building.
To qualify for the city tax exemption Westdale has extended the preservation designation limits of the site to include the new construction area, meaning that whatever they build there or alter in the future must be approved by the City of Dallas Landmark Commission.
If the tax exemption is approved it will delay tax revenue for several years on the property; however, a great deal of money will be invested in this project and other tax revenue generated in the meantime. New temporary construction jobs and permanent jobs, when it opens as a hotel, will be created. A good deal of sales tax revenue will be generated with the hotel and restaurant use. When the exemption ends there will be additional property tax revenue received that the City of Dallas is not getting now with the current state of the building.
How You Can Help:
This item is number 52 on the City Council Agenda and was actually deferred from a meeting in May. Please contact your Council Member before Wednesday and ask them to support a tax exemption for the whole Knights of Pythias project including the new construction, which is being used to support the rehabilitation of the landmark Knights of Pythias building. You may submit comments to the Mayor and City Council by going here.
Thank you for your support of this most important historic protect in Deep Ellum!

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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