Architect Has a Plan (Maybe) to Save Elm St. Buildings Threatened by Chávez Expansion

Categories: Preservation
2226elm.jpg
2226 Elm Street, one of several buildings on the block threatened by the coming-soon street expansion
A few weeks back we were reminded that the city still has plans to widen César Chávez Boulevard from Live Oak to Commerce downtown. At which point we were also reminded that the plan calls for the purchase and demolition of several historic buildings along Elm Street -- chief among them 2226 Elm, which dates back to 1898 and once housed the Preston Loan Building. Preservation Dallas, though, it worried about that building and its two next-door neighbors, which made the 2010 most-endangered list: "These small buildings are some of the last late nineteenth and early twentieth-century structures remaining in downtown ... we encourage the City to explore options for moving the buildings out of harm's way."

Turns out, such a plan exists, if only conceptually at the moment: Craig Melde, a founding principal at Marilla Street-based ARCHITEXAS, would love to move them next the Dallas Farmers Market -- site of the old Harlan Building, which he spent the better part of the early 2000s restoring the only remaining original warehouse in that part of downtown. Melde says Karl Stundins in the Office of Economic Development called about a year ago and asked: Um, would he maybe, like, think about doing it again?

"I was the only one crazy enough to save buildings in the city, and they called and wondered if I'd be interested in relocating these buildings if they could be saved," Melde says. "And I said I'd like to move them to the Farmers Market district, which has TIF funding available. Any venture like this you'll need some assistance, otherwise it's not at all feasible."

That's right -- relocating. As in, picking up and buildings and moving them, oh, thataway. Easy.

Or not: The city's still negotiating with the buildings' owners, who, last we checked a few weeks back, weren't at all happy with City Hall's offers. And when that hurdle's cleared, there's the larger question of: Is it even possible to move these buildings? And if so, how much will it cost?

"I've got to look at the economics of it," Melde says. "I known larger buildings of this type have been moved. In San Antonio, the [Fairmount Hotel] down there was moved -- and it was a much larger brick building." Indeed: On April 4, 1985, the 3.2 -million-pound building was "lifted onto rollers, trussed with bands of steel and moved five blocks to its present location," at the cost of around $1 million.

But Melde's not committing to anything -- he says things like, "I'm gonna explore it" and, "I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen." But he, along with local preservationists, would hate to see the buildings razed -- for more lanes of downtown traffic, no less.

"And we might lose the buildings," he says, not wanting to raise anyone hopes. "I don't want to make money on this. But I don't wanna lose money on it either."
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8 comments
alexandertroup4
alexandertroup4

I stopped by ARCHITEXAS today and  dropped off a peice of slate that came from a pool table in the 19th Century that came out of the dirt....and mud.....it was a nice peice of green slate, cut with a hole in one on the side and some scrathced on stuff, just laying there in the ground by a crawl space...with Wooten Well Texas mineral bottle shards....old broken glass from the 1890s.....when it was a real Saloon and billards hall...and to think that we forget that is how Dallas came about.....

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

Seriously, can't this money be used for something else? Maybe use some of the money to fast-track more of the Downtown 360 plan.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I don't think tax dollars should go to moving this/these buildings. I am willing to trust Angela on the widening of the road, but there's no reason the bricks can't be saved, and similar construction can't be replicated in Farmer's Market and elsewhere. But, moving these buildings offers some "authenticity" that really is meaningless. The savings of dismantling the building and rebuilding them would be cheaper and structurally vastly superior to moving a brick building. Old mortar doesn't react well to movement.

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

Widening makes no sense - re-paving, yes. Moving buildings is an extremely expensive proposition and there are other projects in the works for the TIF funding or so I've been told. The only part of the project that would even be eligible for TIF funding would be any work adjacent to the ROW but something would be better than nothing in this case, I suppose. The State may be locking down historic preservation funds for the next 2 years so that's probably out of the question. Solution - don't widen the damn road and let's forget this nonsense. :D

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

It still makes no sense to me why they insist on widening this stretch of road. I drive through there at rush hours and its not that bad, plenty of worse areas in town, downtown. Waste of money the city/state/whoever just doesn't have.

Torrent
Torrent

Robert, send one of your boys out to see what is going on at 807 Elm St. There's a fence surrounding the property and it looks like they might be preparing it for demolition.

LaceyB
LaceyB

If you could save these buildings by redoing them, say, preserving both location and architectual style, but puting a Starbucks location in the bottom floor/as a storefront, would it be worth saving?

Here's why? Yeah, kinda crazy, but brings people who would be interested in coffee & history. And save the universe. Just an idea, since the other is used as a hotel, which, probably has a Starbucks on site.

Chevytexas
Chevytexas

Scott, I'm not sure why you would be "willing to trust Angela", who doesn't have to drive that stretch and is just trying to distance herself from a political purple nurple here. She and the Council are not the culprits, the "study" (how many $$?) shows pile-ups but not the fact that, due to the sloping and jockeying for position entering Central nobody uses two of the three lanes there. Of couse, I would like to see someone get those outa-towners outa downtown without piling more into Deep Ellum raceways. This is just too much money to spend now, on any of these contingencies.

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