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.
 

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Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas

Preservation Dallas today held a conference to announce their 2016 most endangered listoric places in Dallas list. Photo: Irene Allender

“Historic preservation is the dynamic and deliberate process through which we decide what to keep from the present for the future, and then working to keep it.” —W. Brown Morton

Many historic buildings in Dallas face an uncertain future. Today, Preservation Dallas held a press conference to announce their 2016 “Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas” list.

These are properties too important to lose, for their historic integrity to be diminished, or for the loss of their ability to be used to their full potential, said David Preziosi, Executive Director of Preservation Dallas.

“This list is a roadmap for advocacy, education and development of programs in the preservation community that address the needs of these endangered properties,” Preziosi said. “We must work diligently to protect the places on the list as they are important to the history and fabric of Dallas, for once they are gone, they are lost forever.”

These historic places are irreplaceable community assets that tell the story of the city’s development.

“We hope this list of endangered properties makes the citizens of Dallas aware of how many important historic buildings are at risk of being lost forever,” said Nicky DeFreece Emery, Board President of Preservation Dallas. “Preservation Dallas sees this list as an opportunity for all of us to be more thoughtful in how the city grows and develops.”

Some of them, like East Dallas’ Elbow Room, won’t surprise you. But others will. Read on to see the list.

 

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Doug Chesnut-cropped

 

DFW Reimagined and CNU North Texas hosted their Fall Breakfast Seminar Wednesday, with an interview of Doug Chestnut, CEO and Founder of StreetLights Residential.

With their eight recent and current projects in Dallas, and many more nationwide, StreetLights Residential is on a roll. In Dallas, you’re probably familiar with their work. Recent and current projects include:

The Jordan on McKinney Ave at Pearl St, The McKenzie just off Knox St, The Case Building in Deep Ellum, The Taylor on Carlisle St in Uptown, Trinity Green on Singleton in West Dallas, The Union at Field and Cedar Springs, Residences next to Deep Ellum’s Knights of Pythias building, and another yet-unannounced residential project in Deep Ellum featuring artist living and artisan shops.

The Jordan

The Jordan

Doug confirmed that this demand wave they’re riding, for more urban residences, is a demographic trend that will not be changing anytime soon. Many Baby Boomers who lost a lot of equity in the financial downturn of 2008 decided to liquefy their home equity and change their living situation. That, plus the 2 million Millennials turning 22 years old every year for the next eight years, is a lot of demand. Many of these young professionals don’t have the income to buy a home, nor desire a lifestyle that requires driving. In essence, they’re looking for quality of life through an urban lifestyle with amenities close at hand.

StreetLights Residential has built its business on this principle — that a building and the neighborhood’s design creates lasting value and quality of life. Said Chestnut: “Endearing neighborhoods have activated streets, parks, and entertainment nearby. You go to bed exhausted and can’t wait to get up early and do it all over again. Entertainment doesn’t have to be Six Flags or million-dollar museums, it can be as simple as having a glass of wine on a patio.” Great cities flow.

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The Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, in downtown has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, this structure was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Downtown Dallas’ Davis Building, aka Republic National Bank Building, has Dallas Historic Landmark Designation. In 1926 this structure was the tallest in Dallas. In 1945, it was the largest office site in Dallas. Photo: Davis Building.

Dallas has a rich historic and architectural legacy, shown through buildings like the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, DeGolyer House and Gardens in East Dallas, and the Eastside Warehouse District and State Thomas neighborhood in Uptown.

But just because a building or neighborhood plays an important part in the story of Dallas doesn’t mean it’s protected from big changes, up to and including demolishment.

Just last September, 1611 Main Street and neighboring buildings were razed as part of the Joule’s expansion plans. It was a beautiful Romanesque Revival built in 1885, one of downtown’s oldest structures. It sat next to the site of another Dallas landmark torn down by the Joule in 2012, the former Praetorian Building.

Lakewood Theater is another example of an unprotected structure—it may be beloved, but nothing stands between it and the wrecking ball besides the assurances of the owner that they won’t demolish as part of renovation plans.

That’s where historic designation comes into play and the efforts of Dallas preservationists to care for the future of the buildings and neighborhoods that have shaped what our city into what it is today.

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