As Central Expressway Widens Downtown, One of Dallas's Oldest Buildings Likely to Fall

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The new and improved intersections of Elm and Main Streets and Central Expressway
As noted yesterday, the Dallas City Council will, on Wednesday, consider expanding Central Expressway downtown in order to turn it into a two-way street, a plan that's been in the works, at least conceptually, since 2005. But as a Friend of Unfair Park notes in the comments, "one of the oldest buildings in downtown Dallas" could wind up "getting knocked down for a wider road," which is "not good." So, here we go again, right? Well ...

The property in question is at 2226 Elm Street, which is currently occupied by TePheJez and was once known as the Preston Loan Building. It's among the oldest buildings in downtown, dating back to 1898; and it's housed myriad businesses during its existence -- everything from a saloon to a bank to a pawn shop to, now, a jazz club. But as the picture above shows, it's smack in the middle of the expanded Central and will be razed should council approve the plans.

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At the moment, this is the home of TePheJez jazz club.
So be it, says Pete Fonberg, who owns the building. (Its original owner, Hymie Schwartz, was Fonberg's father-in-law.) "It's like anything else: The important thing is everyone wants progress to take place, and in the event [the building] would hinder it, we would be amenable to going along with what needs to be done," he tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "The expressway is narrow. It should be widened. If that entails taking that building, that's the way progress goes sometimes." The building has no historic protection, and while some preservationists to whom I spoke today would like to see the building moved, Fonberg says it's simply "impossible."

The real problem, says at least one area landlord, is that the street-expansion plans were drawn up by traffic engineers and not urban planners. In other words, he asks: Just when the city's looking to make downtown more walkable, why is it planning on adding more cars and more traffic at difficult-to-navigate intersections? That's a question we'll attempt to answer on Monday.

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