We have a tradition in Dallas of “tearing down our history” and it looks like that will continue with the expected demolition of the 88yr old Thomas Building on Wood St. in Downtown Dallas. The developers received a demo permit on Monday but their plans aren’t being revealed just yet. Failing any last ditch efforts to save the relic of the days of high cotton, Preservation Dallas issued the following statement this morning:
Preservation Dallas Responds to Demolition Permit for Thomas Building
Preservation Dallas understands that the owner of the building at 1314 Wood Street, commonly referred to as the Thomas Building, will be receiving a permit to demolish the building from the city today. This significant historic building constructed in 1924 was built by Michael H. Thomas to support the nearby Cotton Exchange with office space. The building was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Anton Korn, who designed many residences in Highland Park along with participating in the design of several buildings at Fair Park. The Thomas Building is the last remaining commercial building designed by Korn and of that architectural style in Dallas. The building also has one of the most elaborate historic storefronts remaining in Dallas. Due to its significance the property is listed on the National Register as a Contributing Property in the Downtown Dallas Commercial Historic District.
In 2004, the owner’s intent to demolish the building to expand the adjacent parking lot led to it being placed on Preservation Dallas’ Endangered List and an agreement with HPI Group of North Carolina to hold off on demolition for five years. This summer when hazardous materials abatement work began, Preservation Dallas again contacted the owner of the building and was informed that the abatement work was a requirement of the Vacant Building Ordinance. Suspecting that the demolition of the building would likely be the next step, we were none-the-less assured by the property owner’s representative that the building would not be demolished.
Preservation Dallas remains concerned about the use of the Vacant Building Ordinance by property owners as a reason for demolishing what are increasingly rare examples of historic architecture in the downtown area. We expressed our concern in 2008 when the Ordinance was implemented that it could potentially be harmful to historic structures as it:
- Places unrealistic time constraints on an owner to find a new occupant for vacant historic buildings. While we understand the intent of the Ordinance to address derelict buildings that may be an eyesore to the city, it also pushes owners of vacant historic properties to choose demolition rather than working with potential developers to find a way to redevelop the historic property which is usually more complex and takes more time.
- Promotes the removal of architecturally significant vacant historic buildings if they cannot be brought up to code quickly. Most of these are part of a National Register Historic District, and their loss leads to the decline of the historic significance of the district and the loss of Dallas’ history.
- Erodes the character that makes downtown a “people place” by promoting demolition of vacant buildings as an alternative to addressing the issues with the building in order to avoid fines from the city. Demolition leaves holes in the street wall and adds to the loss of ground floor commercial space which improve the walkability and interest of downtown.
We have seen successes with historic buildings that were vacant in Dallas and across the county which were once eyesores and now are contributing buildings to the city and help increase the tax base. Two recent examples are the Statler Hilton and the old Dallas High School, both of which have developers willing to redevelop these important, but vacant, landmarks. An urban city is defined by its buildings which help attract people and businesses to the downtown core. To remove buildings from that core diminishes the character of the city, and Dallas has already suffered more than its share of losses. It is a sad day for downtown Dallas to lose another of its historic structures which survived for nearly 90 years and was a contributing part to its historic fabric. We hope that the City of Dallas will be willing to work with Preservation Dallas on reviewing the Vacant Building Ordinance to find better ways to protect significant historic buildings from demolition and provide incentives for their renewal.