preservation issues for dallas

In 2015, the gorgeous Bud Oglesby-designed home at 10300 Strait Ln. was razed, one of many architecturally significant structures demolished in Dallas in recent years.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed the destruction of many Dallas historic buildings over the past several years. From the Bud Oglesby-designed home at 10300 Straight Ln. and the Trammell Crow Estate to the razing of an entire block of century-old buildings in downtown Dallas as part of the Joule’s expansion plans, it’s been brutal. And it’s nothing new — Dallas historic building have been biting the dust for decades in the name of new construction.

But perhaps the tides are changing. The last two decades have brought a huge shift in historic preservation across the country and in North Texas. People are more interest in the environment around them, both old and new, particularly in how buildings, landscapes, and places impact their lives.

Today, Dallas citizens are able to be increasingly involved in the decision-making processes that determines what their surroundings look like and how it will affect them. Preservation issues for Dallas are getting noticed by some leaders.

Though much progress has been made in the city, it’s got a long way to go. Updated and improved tools are needed to guide future development and preservation efforts.

A panel next week will examine how our city can make informed decisions to create a good foundation on which to build a better future.

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Katherine Seale

One of Dallas’ great advocates for historic preservation is slated to speak at the fifth annual Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society(PCHPS) Distinguished Speaker Luncheon on Thursday, May 19. Katherine Seale, an architectural historian and preservationist in Dallas who was executive director of Preservation Dallas from 2007 until 2011, currently serves as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ appointee and chair of the Dallas Landmarks Commission.

Katherine Seale

Katherine Seale

Seale will host a talk on Historic Preservation in the Context of Change on Thursday, May 19. Registration is at 11:15 a.m. and the luncheon is from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Dallas Country Club, 4155 Mockingbird Ln. Seats are still available, and you can purchase them online here.

The Distinguished Speaker Luncheon is one of two fundraisers each year for PCHPS. The proceeds are allocated for scholarships and to help further their mission to promote, protect and preserve the historic, architectural, cultural, and aesthetic legacy of the Park Cities.

Katherine Seale

Katherine Seale

Katherine Seale

One of Dallas’ great advocates for historic preservation is slated to speak at the fifth annual Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society (PCHPS) Distinguished Speaker Luncheon. Seale will be speaking on Historic Preservation in the Context of Change.

Seale is an architectural historian and preservationist in Dallas who served as executive director of Preservation Dallas from 2007 until 2011. Currently, she is Mayor Mike Rawlings’ appointee and chair of the Dallas Landmarks Commission.

She also serves as chairman to the Downtown Preservation Solutions Committee under the City Manager’s office. Comprised of downtown developers as well as representatives from preservation, planning, architecture, and landscape architecture, their charge is to use historic preservation efforts to influence and facilitate change in downtown to accomplish the larger goals of the city.

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Dallas is experiencing phenomenal inner city growth. Neighborhoods like Oak Cliff, the Trinity River Corridor, Deep Ellum, Ross Avenue, and the Design District are seeing urban infill like never before, showing up in all scales and types.

inner city growth

Robert Meckfessel, FAIA

These changes are remaking the city and opening up new opportunities for residents and businesses alike. But when we look at housing, retail, restaurants, office, and streetscapes, what are the traits that make for good infill and connectivity for these areas?

These are the questions posed for the next Dallas Architecture Forum event, a panel presented in collaboration with Preservation Dallas called Remaking the City.

The event will be moderated by Robert McFessel, FAIA, President of DSGN Associates and past president of leading organizations involved with the quality of the built environment, including the Dallas Architecture Forum, Preservation Dallas, LaReunion TX, and AIA Dallas.

McFessel currently serves on the boards of LaReunion TX, The Trinity Trust, Trinity Commons Foundation, DoCoMoMo U.S., Greater Dallas Planning Council, and the Advisory Board of the Dallas Architecture Forum.

Panelists include:

  • Edwin Cabannis: Owner of the Kessler Theater
  • Katherine Seale: Chair of the City of Dallas Landmark Commission and Past Director of Preservation Dallas
  • Evan Sheets: Senior Urban Designer at Dallas City Design Studio
  • Dan Shipley, FAIA: Founder and Principal at Shipley Architects

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In September 2014, Headington Companies began razing a 129-year-old building in downtown Dallas, and proceeded to demolish almost an entire block of historic storefronts along Main and Elm streets. Photo: Harry Wilonsky/Dallas Morning News

In September 2014, Headington Companies tore down a 129-year-old downtown Dallas building as part of the development of The Joule, also demolishing almost an entire block of historic properties nearby. Photo: Harry Wilonsky, Dallas Morning News

Last September, the Dallas preservation community let out a collective gasp as an entire block of century-old buildings was demolished by Headington Companies as part of the Joule’s expansion plans. Because of the way historic preservation is handled in Dallas, there was no time to discuss alternatives with the bulldozers or the company that employed them. They rolled into place and had their work done in a week.

At the time of the razing, Dallas Morning News Architecture Critic Mark Lamster wrote a scathing column, We regret to inform you that your city has been destroyed, calling the demos “acts of vandalism.” Preservation Dallas, a 43-year-old nonprofit dedicated to the protection and revitalization of the city’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, and places, called it “wanton destruction.”

But out of that surprising event (Headington Companies had received a Preservation Dallas award just the year before), a conversation started about how we take care of our historic buildings in Dallas, particularly in downtown.

“We shouldn’t be able to demolish a 100-year-old building in a matter of a couple of days,” said Katherine Seale, the former executive director of Preservation Dallas and chairman of the Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force, which was authorized by Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings in response to the demolitions.

Seale chose the 11 members of the task force, with includes members from the development, preservation, design, and planning communities, as well as city hall. They have been meeting since January to discuss what changes need to happen to the way Dallas does preservation to better protect our city’s history.

“Historic buildings are downtown’s greatest asset,” Seale said. “They should be treated like precious infrastructure.”

With the task force’s recommendations, approved yesterday, they just might be. They voted on nine recommendations (the executive summary is at the bottom of this post) to take place in incremental stages. Those recommendations will go before the Dallas City Council for approval in coming months.

“I couldn’t be more pleased—it was unanimous,” Seale said. “It’s an incredible outcome from a broad base of people that represent different interests and they all agreed on the recommendations.”

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