MuseumTower-rendering-2.350w_263hJust read this over on the Dallas Morning News Scoop Blog: Dallas Developer Jack Matthews has, for weeks, been negotiating a potential deal to buy Museum Tower with the owners, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, according to DMN sources.

If true, this sparks hope that a change of management for the tower could help end the nasty neighbor fight with the Nasher Sculpture Center over the tower’s glare. For months the parties seem to have been playing the “blame game”.

Steve Thompson wasted no time in asking Jeremy Strick what he thinks such a deal could mean — his pulse must have quickened:

“Mr. Matthews has demonstrated time and again that he is a thoughtful, civic-minded developer committed to our community, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with a willing partner to resolve the problem quickly and effectively,” said Nasher director Jeremy Strick in an emailed response to inquiries.

According to the post, Matthews is not the first person who has come forward with both financial and technical solutions to the reflective issue created by the tower’s exterior, which SOME SAY reflects harsh sunlight inside the Nasher.

Jack Matthews is the developer behind some of North America’s and North Texas’ most impressive projects. First and foremost is the $500 million Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel which opened ahead of schedule and is making money hand over fist. Matthews also developed The Bow, a 58-story, 2.2 million-square-foot headquarters for Encana Corp. in Calgary, Alberta and now the tallest building in Canada outside of Toronto, as we are told by Christine Perez in D CEO.

A Canadian, Matthews grew up in London, Ontario, the fifth of sixth children and the only boy in his family. He began working for his father’s construction company at age 16, and earned both an undergrad degree and MBA from the University of Western Ontario, where he earned an undergrad degree in economics and an MBA. Matthews developed Southside on Lamar out of the old historic Sears catalog building on Lamar Street, the Beat Condos, and The Tribute, a 1,500-acre masterplanned community on the shores of Lake Lewisville featuring a Scottish links-style golf course designed by Tripp Davis and The Old American Golf Club, designed by Davis and Justin Leonard. I spent last New Years Eve at a wedding at the tribute Club House — it was spectacular. Locally, Matthews is also responsible for the  NYLO Dallas SouthSide Hotel with rooftop bar and pool in south Dallas. Matthews himself lives in Argyle.

As of 9:45 Friday night, the DMN had heard from DP&F pension system administrator Richard Tettamant:

“Museum Tower is one of the premier residential properties in the United States. The project has just been completed, and it is to be expected that a property as beautiful and unique as Museum Tower will have interested buyers. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System’s Board of Trustees has a fiduciary responsibility to its members to consider all viable offers. We’re very proud of this exceptional property and believe it is an outstanding investment for the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.”

photo from Nasher Sculpture Center

Jeremy Strick, the director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, sent an email to the Nasher’s members, friends and supporters today asking them (and everyone who loves Dallas) to contact our council reps and get this issue resolved and yes, do the German louvre thing:

Dear Friends,Yesterday, 11 prominent Dallas civic leaders lent their voices to an Op Ed published in The Dallas Morning News. (Read full letter here) These leaders expressed pressing concern about the damage Museum Tower continues to inflict upon the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Arts District and the reputation of the city itself. They called upon the leadership of Museum Tower to fix their building by adopting the louver solution without further delay. This practical 100% solution would eliminate dangerous reflected light at its source, protecting the Nasher’s interior and exterior galleries.Over the past 14 months, as this issue became known and stories about the damage Museum Tower is doing to its neighbors have appeared locally and nationally, many of you have asked us what you can do to encourage a positive resolution. If you live in the city of Dallas, I would ask you to make your Dallas city council representative aware of your opinion, whether by letter, email, or telephone. (Find your representative here) If you live outside of the city and care about Dallas’ cultural institutions, voicing your support and opinion to our elected officials is also welcome. The leadership of Museum Tower needs to recognize their responsibility to our community, and your council representatives can play an important role in resolving this matter .I’d like to reaffirm that we at the Nasher are advocates for the development of the Arts District and support the goal of Museum Tower to add residencies to this neighborhood. Ray Nasher has given our community an incredible gift by building an unparalleled museum in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and making his extraordinary collection accessible to all. The Nasher is an invaluable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Dallas and visitors from around the world and we need your support and your voices to ensure its future contributions to the region.With thanks, as ever, for your interest and support,Sincerely,
Jeremy Strick

Tom Luce, managing director and founding partner of Dallas law firm Hughes & Luce, has agreed to be the go-between as the Nasher Sculpture Center and Museum Tower look to find a solution to their very, very hot problem.

According to KERA’s Art+Seek blog, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, which owns the $200M Museum Tower, asked Luce to come on board. Here’s what Luce said:

“The Nasher Sculpture Center and the Museum Tower and the developers have jointly asked me to serve as facilitator to resolve all the open issues between the parties.  And they have affirmed to each other and to me that they want to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.  They have asked to help them do that and I’m pleased to undertake the mission.”

Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the very sensitive roof of the Nasher Sculpture Center.

If you’ve already read Tim Rogers’ May D Magazine cover story, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time that the Nasher and Museum Tower have tried to sort out their differences. Here’s how Rogers retells it:

At some point, Strick had had enough. He pushed back his chair and stood up. “As far as we’re concerned, you guys created the problem,” he said. Strick is a soft-spoken man of enormous restraint. He’d clearly hit the breaking point. “It’s your problem to fix. We’re not going to touch our building. We’re not going to study a solution on our side. That’s the end of the discussion.”

Rogers offers some follow-up to the story, in which Nasher architect Renzo Piano says he’ll make some trouble for Museum Tower if they don’t do something to rectify the impact on his creation.

Here’s what I want to know: What do you think is the best solution to the problem? Do you think Piano could win if this goes to court?

Great article in Thursday’s Dallas Morning News by Michael Granberry about an ensuing battle between Museum Tower and the Nasher Sculpture Center that we can only hope won’t lead to the l-word: lawsuit. Of course, the story is behind the paywall, and I highly recommend you read it. If not, here’s a synopsis:

Sometimes it’s tough to get along with your neighbors, especially if they encroach on your property. With homes, it can be noise or the neighbor’s dog who defecates in your yard without clean up, or something else obnoxious that disrupts your quality and peace of life.

Well, the Nasher Sculpture Center says it’s the newly installed glass at Museum Tower that’s frying up their gardens and art. The glass is sleek and curved and reflects the sun just so efficiently — too efficiently — that the Nasher folks claim the building’s oval shape actually “directs the glare from its exterior into the Nasher galleries.”

 Further, they contend that the effects of the tower’s glass appear to violate a city code and contradict a 1998 covenant covering the tower site that was drafted before the death of museum founder Raymond Nasher in 2007. (The covenant expired in 2008.) “It all comes down to a very basic principle,” said Jeremy Strick, director of the Nasher Sculpture Center. “You don’t do harm to your neighbors. And if you find yourself doing harm, you fix it. You stop and you fix it. In this case, Museum Tower is causing harm to the Nasher and to the Arts District as a whole.”

Oh boy, we have five months to go before August and already the fun has begun. Museum Tower has firmly said they will be good neighbors. Crisis PR expert Merrie Spaeth who apparently represents the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, is on the job and wasted no time reassuring:

“We are completely committed to studying this issue and offering expert-based resolutions. This is a complex issue and we are confident that we are close to identifying a mutually beneficial solution. We have come to the table to partner with the Nasher and will continue to do so.”

So what’s the deal? It’s not as if the Nasher and half the country has NOT known about Museum Tower going up for what, four years now, and that is made entirely of glass? This is not a surprise structure that just showed up. The issue, according to Granberry’s fine reporting, first cropped up in September when the glass was installed. “Weird reflections “started to occur. At first, just a few, but then they became more pronounced.”  Nasher director Jeremy Strick says  “measurements taken in the garden in January found pools of light caused by Museum Tower to be 10 degrees hotter than surrounding areas. Measurements taken in March, he said, recorded the same pools as 25 degrees hotter.” August might fry the thermometer.

Such sharp increases “can damage or kill the plants,” Strick said. “We are looking at the potential effect of our garden being destroyed.” Dr. Robert E. Moon, the Nasher’s horticulturist, agreed in a report dated March 14.

On the other hand, I am seeing a way to perhaps create some cheap energy here… hmm.

Granberry reports that when Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the Nasher,  he was operating under a 1998 covenant, which limited the height of the tower and reduced the glare. Originally, MT was supposed to be 21 stories tall but was stretched to 42 stories, the highest high rise in Dallas. The news touched MT’s original architect, Renzo Piano, who said he was “deeply disturbed by the damage being caused” to the Nasher.

“No building in an urban environment exists in a vacuum,” says Piano, adding the Museum Tower has “given us an example of how things can go wrong when the context of the city is ignored.”

Nasher officials complained to the city of Dallas,  and Mary Suhm is concerned. Very concerned about this pickle:

“They’ve spoken to us. They told us about the pickle they’re in. It’s something I’m concerned about. I’ve been assured by both sides they’re going to work it out. It’s not something we have jurisdiction over.”

Jeremy Strick says it all started in 2008, months after Nasher’s death. MT’s four developers brought in a new architect,  Scott Johnson. Strick says the new team unilaterally increased the “degree of allowable reflectivity to 35%”, which was not discussed with MT’s neighbor, and which Strict only learned about through a public filing.

The good news is they are communicating: four meetings since September, but Strick says thus far “solutions they recommend so far are changes to our building.”

That’s probably because MT  commissioned their own engineering study which says the solution lies with Nasher. Nasher’s study, meantime,  suggested a mesh fabric or louvers or something that would “span all 42 stories of Museum Tower and nullify the glare.”

Pretty.

The 15-page report by the owners of Museum Tower concedes the reflectivity of the glass, but says there’s really nothing you can do about it.  Correction: THEY can do about it.

 “No matter what the normal reflectivity is,” their report reads, “glass becomes very reflective at high angles of incidence. Changing the glazing will not help for these circumstances.”