The City Council's About to Sign Off on That Expansion of César Chávez Boulevard

centralexpansionmap.jpg
From the '09 docs, prepared before Central was rechristened César Chávez Boulevard
Next week's council agenda makes it official: The long-talked-about expansion of César Chávez Boulevard and Pearl Expressway downtown, from Commerce Street to Live Oak Street, is on track to begin in December. The council is set to sign off on paying $12,473,920 to Tiseo Paving Company to do the job, which entails installing ....
... a six-lane divided boulevard with turn lanes, wider sidewalks, landscaping, pedestrian lighting, benches, trash receptacles, signal upgrades, storm drainage, water and wastewater improvements for Cesar Chavez Boulevard (Central Expressway) from Commerce Street to Live Oak Street and Pearl Expressway from Pacific Avenue to Live Oak Street. The contract will also include the removal of the existing pavement sections and be replaced by sod inside the Carpenter Plaza Park. One-way traffic operation on Live Oak Street will be converted to a two-way traffic operation from Olive Street to Cesar Chavez Boulevard (Central Expressway).
Says the time line, work will take a good long while -- till July 2014, which means, for the first time, I won't miss our old home at 2130 Commerce.

But that reminds me: When last we wrote about the project, it was when the city was trying to buy up those properties on Elm that need to be razed to make way for the expansion, including 2226 Elm, which was built in 1896 and is easily among the oldest still-standing structures downtown.

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2226 Elm, the old Preston Loan Building, which made Preservation Dallas's 2010 most-endangered list
I called the owners of those buildings, including James Walker and Harvard Companies and Pete Fonberg, who owns 2226, to see if the city ever upped its offers. Both men said no -- and said they had no idea the city was but months away from beginning the widening.

Since January, Walker says, he's heard "zero from the city, so we have some talking to do." Fonberg echoes those sentiments.

"No, we haven't talked to anybody at the city," he says. Fonberg says that earlier this year, his appraiser and the city's appraiser traded numbers, which were way off, and he expects the city will just "proceed with condemnation and set up a board to hear it," ultimately resulting in a settlement or a court case. "And, meanwhile, where you had a viable property generating income, you're left with a vacant shell with little or no consideration. It's not a pleasing process by any stretch of the imagination, and if you talk to them they say, 'We did the right thing.'"

I spoke with Assistant City Manager Forest Turner this morning, who said Rick Galceran, head of Public Works, would be able to provide further details. I'll update when he calls back.

Update at 12:31 p.m.: Raj Guntnur, the senior project manager at Public Works in charge of the expansion, just called to confirm that the widening still involves demolishing those historic buildings. And, he says, the construction will take place in two phases: "All the construction north of Pacific will be done in Phase 1, and ll the construction south of Pacific will be in Phase 2, which is about 18 months down the line, so we'll have time to negotiate with the property owners, and if that fails, we'll go through the condemnation process," as Fonberg predicted yesterday.

As for traffic in that part of downtown: Tiseo, he says, "does a good job in managing the construction sequence, and will implement construction phase by phase and redirect traffic daily as needed."
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13 comments
T. Fuller
T. Fuller

Since I live in the Hispanic Part of the City on Cesar Chavez, and I use Central Expressway to go to my house, oh Whoops, that's Cesar Chavez now., I am wondering what is going to be done with the Carpenter Plaza Corten Steel Walls that provide a nice gate way into the Downtown area. It looks like most of the wall will have to be removed to get a straight shot into downtown. The Dart Rail Line that is ground level as we enter the downtown area has so screwed up traffic at the entrance of Downtown, I really have not faith in the solutions of the traffic planners. So besides destroying the oldest buildings of Deep Ellum, are we are going to chop and modify another local monument to fix something that does not need fixing or to force property owners that have invested in their properties to sell their properties to create more urban  success stories like the Dallas Farmers Market, Victory Plaza, and Riverfront Blvd.

Larry
Larry

These buildings are on the real, historic crossroads of Deep Ellum (Central Ave and Elm)... The Tip Top, where Buster Smith got his start, was right across the street before it was demolished. What we think of Deep Ellum now, east of Central Expressway, is not historically where all the action was in terms of early music history. Now, we'll go ahead and demolish the last remaining vestige of that history, with the endorsement of the City Council. This city drives me absolutely crazy.

Bob
Bob

If the truly historical buildings are no longer there, what is the point of retaining a couple of buildings that happen to be nearby, and that happen to be old, but possess no historic or otherwise significant attributes of their own?  Since every else around them is gone, they can't even claim preservation worthiness as part of an ensemble, because the rest of the ensemble no longer exists.  Keeping these buildings will not even come close to rectifying the butchery of the past, so just let them go. 

me
me

what did i just say ...

Jerry L
Jerry L

I, too, think the 'historic' label used in this article needs to be backed up with more facts.  Was this building occupied by anyone or any business that was important to Dallas's history?  Was it built with any unique features or materials?  Was the architect notable?  

Otherwise this just looks like an old building to me.  And I'm someone who laments that Dallas tears down much of its history, but tell me where the history is in this building.

thufir_hawat
thufir_hawat

Per Preservation Dallas: "These small buildings are some of the last late nineteenth and early twentieth-century structures remaining in downtown, and they stand in the way of the proposed widening of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, formerly Central Expressway. Preservation Dallas supports the plans to expand and beautify the new Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and we encourage the City to explore options for moving the buildings out of harm's way."

I think your tautology -- they are old because they are historic beccuse they are old -- is close to correct here, particularly where the rational for keeping or moving them (right) is that they are old.  As John Huston as Noah Cross said in Chinatown, "[p]oliticians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

me
me

the history is in the fact that this structure is one of the few remaining from what was the original Deep Ellum neighborhood, also referred to as Central Tracks. Deep Ellum's original core was Central Avenue which ran on either side of the Central Railroad train tracks. In the late 50s and early 60s when the interstate highway system was built, inevitably it was minority neighborhoods that were displaced to make room for the concrete and steel we now have running the length and width of what was once a thriving neighborhood of blacks, Jews and transient workers. Southern Blues by the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, T Bone Walker and even Robert Johnson were performed within the very blocks here where these last remaining structures from that period remind us of what went on here before. Is that history enough for you?

Guest
Guest

Poof.  There goes another priceless piece of Dallas history...

EastDallas4Life
EastDallas4Life

Dallas has history? The city would have you think otherwise.

Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal Lecter

Just because it's old doesn't make it historic or "priceless". 

Noah Jeppson
Noah Jeppson

No, but it is an interesting structure that tells the history of the neighborhood. Even just keeping the facade and incorporating it into a new building near the site would be an interesting re-use. Hopefully the new two-way roads in the area will encourage some new development on all the empty parking lots.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

So they changed the name of the street from "Central Expressway" to "Cesar Chavez Boulevard (Central Expressway)"?  Does that mean we should refer to "Riverfront Boulevard" as "Riverfront Boulevard (Industrial Boulevard)"?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

It's The Artist Formerly Known as Central Expressway.

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