Dwellings, offices, factories, warehouses, restaurants, even zoos, are all built for people. Seems an exceedingly obvious statement. Equally obvious is the fact that as society changes, its man-made structures change, too. Ebb and flow and all that.

But what I find fascinating is how little we learn. The old saying goes that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but when have we ever really learned? Most people want to live in an area of human contact, human proximity. After decades of decline, cities made a resurgence (until a lot were priced out). The mantra was vibrancy, walkability held in stark contrast to the suburbs’ winding roads to nowhere (an environmental and economic waste). But just as that happened, vibrancy was spirited away with a mouse click leaving only restaurants and dry cleaners.

Vacant storefront on Madison Avenue

Retail and People

Earlier this year, Candy wrote about the vacancy issues faced by retail spaces in New York City. We’ve seen it writ large whether New York City or Dallas, brick-and-mortar retail is changing rapidly because transportation changed – yes, transportation.

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Mehrdad Moayedi is nearing the end of his three-year, $230 million renovation of the historic Statler Hilton in downtown Dallas. He bought the iconic hotel in 2014 with $46.5 million in TIF financing and has almost completed making it into a totally glam live-work-play-stay destination again. What does Mehrdad need now?

Another project! And the one where the Beatles stayed when they visited Dallas!

So his company, Centurion American, has their eyes and about $8.1 million on the old Cabana Motor Hotel, the 55-year-old midcentury relic on Stemmons Freeway.

Mehrdad plans to gut the 10-story hotel building and bring it back to its original glory. Place has been vacant for years. Well, it housed a county detention center before it was shuttered and put on the market by Dallas County as surplus property. A few sex offenders might still be there. The hotel, right across Stemmons from Victory Park, has seen better days, but the potential is huge.

This could be really great news for the county, since previous developers did not pan out, including a deal to turn the property into a data center (a hotel is a much better use).

And, according to Robert Wilonsky,  it’s a steal (hell yeah)!

The motel once owned by Doris Day, the landmark where Raquel Welch once worked as a cocktail waitress and where Jimi Hendrix used to stay when he came to Dallas, is now available at the low, low price of $7 million — which is just $1 million more than it cost to construct the “super-plush” joint back in 1961, according to our archives. That’s also a few million lower than the market value as set by the Dallas County Appraisal District, which says it’s worth $11,289,460. And, for what it’s worth, it’s also far less than the $9.2 million Dallas County paid for the property in 1985 — and not much more than the additional $5 million the county spent transforming it into a jail that wound up housing some 1,000 male and female inmates.

Hmmm. A $7 million price tag, Mehrdad’s paying $8.1? Who is bidding up that price? According to Steve Brown, who broke the story, Mehrdad says, thankfully, he really wants to preserve the century modern jewel:

“The hotel is going to stay a hotel,” Moayedi said. “We are going to give a big emphasis on a pool. It’s going to be like a Las Vegas pool.” (more…)

BianchiHouse-1

(Photo courtesy of Michael Cagle)

The Bianchi house at the corner of Carroll and Reiger in East Dallas is safe, at least for the moment. The 104-year-old Otto Lang & Frank Witchell (Lang & Witchell) “House of the Future” displayed at the Texas Centennial Exposition made it through the Dallas Landmark Hearing Monday afternoon. Whew! Hopefully, the move was step one for preservation and restoration of this beautiful property.
Robert Wilonsky has called it an “Airbnb for the homeless,” , and I see his point.  Monday afternoon DEEP founder Lisa Marie Gala and I walked up on the porch and were spooked by a homeless man, nice enough, just camping out on the porch.
An attic fire has all but destroyed the roof. The windows are boarded up, and weeds run as wild as a bunch of teenagers whose parents are out of town. But the owner, Rick Leggio, a former Dallas Plan Commissioner, has been impossible to reach to determine repairs or interest in selling the property.
The home is sorely in need of care. Preservationists want the home restored and preserved, not razed, as the city is apt to do to a place with an endless list of code violations and a tarp on the roof.
Since September (2015), the house has been on Preservation Dallas’s most-endangered list. Its roof is decorated with tattered strips of blue tarp after an attic fire almost three years ago. A giant concrete hunk of the house has fallen into the weeds.
Leggio has, or someone has, however, paid the property taxes.

As the process moves forward to secure the fate of the Bianchi House, DEEP – the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties, Inc., has committed to following the journey and fundraising toward the effort of receiving or purchasing the home for restoration, deed restriction, and re-sale.

Bianchi House plaque (more…)

Jacotte house

All photos: Jeff Baker

Ten years ago, Catherine Horsey fell in love with a house.

Jacotte House

Catherine Horsey

Having spent seven years at the helm of Preservation Dallas, and recently returned to Dallas to work on the sustainable neighborhood Urban Reserve, Horsey saw an article on the house at 3216 Jacotte Cir. and was immediately smitten.

This home is significant in Dallas because it was Howard Meyer’s first modernist house, built in 1937. Meyer is one of Dallas’ first and most accomplished modern architects, known for designing Temple Emanu-El, one of the most distinguished works of contemporary architecture in Texas built during the 1950s; the Lipshy-Clark House at 5381 Nakoma Dr., one of the finest international modernist houses in Texas; and 3525 Turtle Creek Blvd., considered the most fully realized and successful modernist apartment building in Texas, perhaps in America.

Horsey saw this home’s rehabilitation as a great opportunity to showcase how historic preservation and green building practices could work hand-in-hand, and spent a year updating the entire house.

With the help of the original plans, photographs from a 1940 Architectural Record article, and conversations with Eugene K. Sanger, Sr., for whom the house was designed, Horsey restored its character-defining elements and adapted it for resource-efficient modern living.

“The longer I have lived in this house, the more I have loved it—that must be one of the definitions of good architecture,” Horsey said. “What I love about the house is the light—so many large windows that open out to the nearly 17,000-square-foot yard, and the very low utility costs. Howard Meyer really knew what he was doing when he designed this house for the Texas climate.”

This is a three bedroom, four bathroom house, with 2,034 square feet. Horsey is selling it herself for $739,000.

“It’s for sale by owner right now, because I’m going to do my best to keep it from falling into the wrong hands,” she said.

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Yes, there’s a house behind those overgrown bushes at 1231 Walter Drive. (Photos: Jo England)

On the other side of Fort Worth Avenue, just off of W. Colorado Blvd. is a quiet enclave of 176 homes called Stevens Park Village. The North Oak Cliff neighborhood, first developed by Annie Stevens between 1939 and 1941, feels homey and quaint, full of Austin stone Prairie-style cottages — even a few Dilbecks! – and bungalows with neat lawns and groomed hedges.

The homes are all sturdy, set upon the meandering tree-lined streets of the neighborhood. Though Cliff Manor Apartments, a public housing project, is just down Fort Worth Avenue from Stevens Park Village, there’s not much traffic and very little crime. It’s idyllic and charming with greenbelts and friendly neighbors.

But there’s one home that didn’t look tidy or loved, with overgrown hedges and peeling paint masking the rotted window frames. That’s the home that Donovan Westover fell in love with.

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The Jackson House is a classic updated English-style estate on Strait Lane by Hal Yoakum.

The Jackson House is a classic updated English-style estate on Strait Lane by Hal Yoakum.

Of course we “ooh” and “ahh” over new homes and the latest design features, but a lot can be said for homes that stand the test of time. Some estates become standard-bearers for architects and designers, evoking a time and place like no other home can.

These are exactly the types of properties that are showcased in Saturday’s “Grounds For Preservation” home tour hosted by Preservation Dallas. This home tour is an extraordinary opportunity  to see the sprawling estates of Dallas designed by well-known architects.

“Our tour this year highlights iconic historic houses in Dallas, and this tour is unique because it highlights estates and their grounds,” said Donovan Westover of Preservation Dallas.

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4307 Armstrong Parkway lot

Recall our dismay at the dismantling of 4307 Armstrong Parkway, where the buyers, a Hillsborough, California couple named Williams bought the Donnally family home, tore it down to build a new home, then changed their minds about building (they bought another home in Highland Park). They put the lot back on the market for $5,595.000, exactly what they paid for it. (more…)