Crozier Tech: Just Tear it Down Already

Categories: Schutze

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Maybe it's late in the day for this, but is there any chance the city could rescind its bizarre special ordinance ordering the preservation of the old Crozier Tech high school building at the east end of downtown and just let the poor bastards who bought the place knock it down and truck it to the landfill?

According to what I can see at the appraisal district, the 5.4 acres of land at Pearl and Bryan on which the century-old long-abandoned hulk sits is worth $6.8 million. Given the appraisal district's record of accuracy on large downtown parcels, the land is probably worth about a kabillion bucks more than that.

But the old high school building itself is worth $48,000. Forty-eight grand! That's the price of a King Ranch F-250 dually.

I'm talking about a pickup truck.

Who knows how they even came up the forty-eight grand? Is that what the owner could get from a fertilizer company for the bat guano? Or would he also have to scrape the mortar off the bricks and sell them from a booth at a history buff festival in little bundles of six tied together with raffia?

PIC_Crozier-Tech-1.jpg
Where's Dwaine Caraway and his bulldozers when you need 'em?
The developer of this property, a guy named Clyde Jackson, whom I have never met and with whom I have never spoken, can't tear down the building to develop his 5.4 acres because of an ordinance passed in 2000 making it illegal for anybody to do anything but preserve it. I sort of remember when they passed that. It was back when Dallas was afraid it might run out of history. We were in a period of history hoarding. I wonder if we built up too much inventory?

How this particular sucker got chosen for landmarkification, I have no idea. All the news stories say it's "architecturally significant." Yeah, well, you know, at my age I look in the mirror, I try to tell myself the same thing. It's a reach.

Sometimes shit is just old.

So anyway Jackson has a deal before City Hall to renovate this price-of-a-pickup piece of crap for guess how much?

Ten million dollars! You heard me right. Ten million bucks! Oh my God! I mean, sure you could do it for that much. If you spent 10 million bucks on an F-250 dually, you could fly the son of a bitch to Guadalajara.

The question is, why would you do that?

The ordinance on this property has all sorts of other weird-ass requirements. The owner not only can't knock the damn thing down, he can't build anything near it in a certain "buffer zone," wasting a bunch more of his square footage.

Buffer zone. That's what they put around sewage treatment plants. I wonder, that's all. Do we think we're San Francisco, we've got too much investment flooding into downtown?

Here's the other thing. What do we really know about this roach motel? And what's the math on whether it's worth 10 million bucks to save it?

You know what's interesting? The house I live in is supposed to have been built by the first principal of Crozier when it was still called Dallas High School. We are currently in yet another phase of partial renovation at my house. Every time we pull off some drywall and get down to another layer of bad ship-lap, I want to go stomp on that guy's grave. Just because something is old doesn't mean it was ever done right.

Ah, maybe that's it. I'm just pissed off at the principal. But I have learned this much over a couple decades in my house: We could have saved about 75 percent on our own cost of renovation by taking a shitload of pictures, bulldozing the place and building it back to look like the pictures. (Would you mind not sharing with my wife that I have said this? I don't want to wind up living at the Days Inn. Between us for now, OK?)

The Crozier deal is up for a big tax break from the city. I don't know that the tax break is tied to the preservation effort. Maybe the developer would ask for the tax break even if he didn't have to spend 10 million bucks getting rid of urine smell. I guess I would ask for it. Why not?

But what about this, just as a bargaining position? The City Council says, "Hey, we rescind the ordinance. Scrape that sucker down to the dirt. But forget about the tax break."

Just thinking out loud here. History is a lot like a pickup truck, come to think of it. It may even be a really nice pickup truck, one you'd like to have. But you still have to look at the sticker. Don't you?

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54 comments
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Christina White
Christina White

Forget YOU!!!!! This is where my parents and family ( grandfather) went to school!!!!!!!

MikeyLikesIt
MikeyLikesIt

Caesar Chavez Blvd will soon roar through a late 1800's building on Elm and Chavez.  One of only a few left downtown.  Another stupid hit on the city's dwindling historic resources.  I would invite all the "world class city" preachers on Marilla to travel the globe and offer up real world class downtowns devoid of historic architecture.  And that is yet another reason why we will never be a world class city.As someone said before, Dallas's first high school is its first high school.  Places all over the world think outside the box and adapt old buildings into new uses.  Not here in the land of the construction company.  Nope.  Tear that shit down, throw up a big box and wrap it in mirrors and LED lights.  More than likely our Council will subsidize it for you - which only encourages tearing down more.  Your Leppert loving company prospers and you can build your new Tuscan Villa, French Chateau, Greek Revival columned mansion layered with particle board and spit.  Is it any wonder why we're fodder for TV shows centered around excess.And the decision to tear this stuff down and drag it to the land fill so we can suck up some more resources and super size what was there shares the same environmental genius with the Napoleon that tools around town in the aforementioned F-250 ranting at AM radio. And here you are foolishly cheering it all on.  Sad and dumb and I've never thought of you before as either.  

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

There's only one "first" high school in Dallas and this is it.  Actually there were other schools before but this was the first big high school in Dallas. The five high schools which followed were roughly patterned after it.  As you are familiar with the Roaring 20s-budgeted Shrine of East Dallas, you probably know that it's built to last and they practically had to use dynamite to go through the castle walls to add HVAC ...same for Bryan High/Dallas High/Crozier Tech.   Why Sunset could not even destroy the Sanger Trophy:  http://neighborsgo.com/index.p...  they found it in a closet with just a couple of dents.  Have you seen the trophies awarded these days?

Thufir_Hawat
Thufir_Hawat

I believe the appropriate quotation is from Chinatown: " 'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

Jim, I will not dignify any inquiries as to into which of the three categories you fall.

downtownworker
downtownworker

Other random things you can compare to history and pickup trucks in order to prove a poorly thought-out point:1) Bunnies2) Crystal meth3) Sarah Jessica Parker4) Rainbows

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

While i'm normally for saving old buildings and preservation here in Dallas, sometimes the ones that cannot be saved have to meet a bulldozer. I've seen plenty of houses and buildings both south and north of the mighty trinity that fit this description. When it comes to the old crozier tech building, if the city wants to preserve this property, they need to kick in on the restoration and upkeep of the building..

Replay
Replay

You mean.......like a tax abatement/exemption?

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

Many moons ago, during the West Nile craze, Safari Club promoted the idea of bat houses in major urban areas. The idea was to let the bats knock down the mosquito population and keep it in check. You do have a point, bat shit is worth big bubks, and it's GREEN. Hell you might even get the ODers to shovel the shit when they come out of hibernation. By the way, we still got a case of flea&tic collers for them termites, just need an address to send'um to.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The stuff that's interesting in the building (cast stone embellishments) could be removed and used in the new construction. That's what they did in Chicago with an old art deco building on Michigan Ave that was falling down. Contractor removed the skin, trucked it away, cleaned it, built a new building, then re-installed the original exterior.

pak152
pak152

 and that is what I was thinking. in DC many old houses can't be torn down, but instead they leave the facade up while building an entire new structure behind the facade. look and feel of the neighborhood is maintained, owners get a brand new up to code structure

pleasedon'tshockmymonkey
pleasedon'tshockmymonkey

I think it should be replaced by something with a glass facade. Also, a bunch(and I do mean a bunch) of outside lighting. 

Oak Cliff Clavin
Oak Cliff Clavin

I think someone called it the "teacup mentality", meaning: how many old fucking teacups does one actually need?

But this place is probably worth saving, although $10M does seem steep.

Anon
Anon

for what it's worth, I don't think there should be any setback rules on the lot from the existing structure, at least not anything in excess of the minimum otherwise required under city code.

Anon
Anon

how many vacant lots does downtown need? I'd say we are far more oversupplied with those than we are with historic buildings.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Jim, I feel your pain on owning an older house. My home is about 60 years old. I want to find people who have done different things to it in the past and smack them. The garage is attached, but someone sealed off the door that went from the house to the garage. Trees were planted way to close to the house (causing problems for the foundation). I've found substandard plumbing, electrical work and other issues over the years. To really do all that I want done to the house, I would be better off tearing it down and completely rebuilding it. But, that would cost as much as the house and land are worth.It is sad, but sometimes an old building just needs to be torn down and rebuilt. We should just ask that they rebuilding something that at least looks similar to the old building.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Why should we ask that what is newly constructed looks similar?

I'll grant you that the faux-castles in Little Forest Hills are an unspeakable atrocity that wont last 15 years (which is why most of them have never been occupied), but why should it have to "look" similar?

Anon
Anon

for practical purposes, it is because homes will simply be bought for lot value, and the actual improvements on a home will become worthless. why does that matter? blight. because homeowners who will literally get nothing out of upgrades and basic maintenance on their homes make a neighborhood go to shit.

JimS
JimS

language

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

To maintain a consistent look and feel to historic neighborhoods. Let's face it, in a neighborhood of modest sized single story homes, a 2 story brick monstrosity is bad for everyone. But, notice that I say ask and not require that the replacement look similar.

JimS
JimS

I'm not sure just when it was, but there was some period in the history of Dallas when  building standards must have been nonexistent.

JeromeWeeks
JeromeWeeks

It's not exactly a matter of building codes or standards. Thousands of older, wood-frame homes like mine were called 'craftsmen' homes because, quite literally, they could be built by homeowners -- they didn't have to hire professionals. Case in point, I was having trouble with the original red-oak flooring in my house popping up. I crawled underneath with a cell phone and talked to a contractor friend while I checked it out. We eventually figured out that I have no subflooring. I just have the floorboards directly attached to the beams (one beam was sinking, which is why the floorboards were popping). There was no code for subflooring in 1920.

A lot of these homes are frustrating to us contemporary types and were so to our parents as well because everything we buy these days is pre-built to standard -- they have to be 36 inches and 90 degrees and dead level, otherwise that mass-produced cabinet won't fit, that door won't hang, those insulated windows will leak.But these homes weren't built that way. So they seem 'wrong,' and many of our more recent 'repairs' and 'upgrades' don't work the way they're designed or they even seem to make things worse.

JimS
JimS

You're kidding me. They're going to preserve 508 Park? Has that been announced?

cp
cp

Yes and so irritated that I have to spend tons of money to have my windows custom made to fit into oddball sized hole from the old windows. But it's good that ACE hardware is there in Lakewood because I can't get a lot of stuff at Home Depot but Ace has a few things that we people who own 80 y/o homes need. 

JeromeWeeks
JeromeWeeks

 Yes, Jim and I and Gus are set to announce production on our new PBS program, 'This Got-Damned Old House.' Future episodes will cover ripping out recently remodeled crap, the failure to anticipate the vagaries of earlier construction methods, things you should ask the seller ('What in the world ever caused you to do this?'), how to upgrade a home's utilities without killing yourself and, of course, Jim's marital problems. While Gus and I go over the finer points of cabinetwork and counseling, Jim will curse the newfangled, high-society Calatrava bridge, curse the newfangled, high-society Arts District buildings and curse the few funky older buildings that Dallas has because the city will just bulldoze them anyway, so why should nutjob pretentious preservationists waste everyone's time? We will cut Jim off before he starts denouncing one of Robert Wilonsky's favorite preservation projects, saving 508 Park, because we really want to get to viewer questions about tile. 

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 Right G-Rome

Not to mention a generation or two ago, the average american male was handy enough to patch things up long enough to get by or at least thought he was, there wasnt a big orange hardware store in every village so you used what the local lumberyard sold you

pak152
pak152

 and many times they are Sears catalog homes ie you ordered your house from Sears and all the parts were shipped to youhttp://prefabcosm.com/blog/200...

http://www.modulartoday.com/se...

as for building codes they were developed over time as new technologies (electricity, gas, etc) were added to houses. it would be interesting to find out why one should have subflooring.

each new code requirement can and does add to the cost of a house

Anon
Anon

I don't think building standards were nonexistent. They were just not enforced, especially in parts of town that had fallen on hard times. 

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Obscenity and insults* in place of Wilonsky's carefully crafted style?

Failure, Jim. Failure... 

* I'm calling "stomp on that guy's grave" an insult. Others might disagree.

JimS
JimS

Goose you, duckduck.

pak152
pak152

"(Would you mind not sharing with my wife that I have said this? I don't want to wind up living at the Days Inn. Between us for now, OK?)"

sure but I need a little bit of green incentive wink wink nudge nudge

JimS
JimS

I am a journalist, sir. I only pay extremely small bribes.

Joe L
Joe L

One of the big problems contributing to Dallas remaining perpetually soulless is the habit of tearing down graceful old buildings. Kudos to the City for saving this one. Architecture in Dallas does seem to be getting progressively worse with each passing year.  Seeing the massive amounts of money poured into the ugly new "Arts District" buildings is depressing. We need to save some of the past so maybe some future generation will see them and reject our horrible taste.

GusMitchem
GusMitchem

 Lets see is that example of an old High School that looks cool because its so out of place worth the (at least) $10M dollars that sits right on the transit line

Is it wort isolating this 5.4 acres or potential development, which would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes for you and me and our city 

Anon
Anon

Jim-The shiplap on your old house is probably still in better condition than the substandard materials going into the crappy suburban homes that sell at the "bargain" price point (I'm not talking about the nicer homes being built in the suburbs, of which there are many).Also, without the protection of the historical ordinance, Swiss would be Gaston 2.0, and then you wouldn't live in your house because it wouldn't have appealed to you, even as a broke journalist decades ago. And yes, I am aware of what that part of town was like when you bought in.I'm not saying that old is always good. But tearing down in downtown Dallas hasn't done downtown much good to date. And then you look at buildings like the Wilson and you realize that old isn't always good, but it's often better than new, especially when new is crap that is thrown up quickly so a property speculator with connections can make a fast buck.

downtownworker
downtownworker

People who "get" downtown Dallas probably can't imagine downtown without the Wilson, Adolphus, Tower Petroleum and countless others. Those who don't get it are perfectly fine with downtown being an office park as long as it makes money.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Your ignorance and lack of research on this particular subject is astounding.

Or is this how Unfair Park is going to become now that Wilonsky is no longer employed?

I've read articles from your days at the Times Herald chastising the city for not doing enough to save historic buildings downtown. Guess you've changed your tune?

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Will you point out what was ignorant?

(I'm being sincere here)

Rico
Rico

I think he was referring to the part about buying a Ford 250 King Ranch dually for $48K.

JimS
JimS

Is it a religion? Save one, you have to save them all? Are there no old buildings not worth saving? One day will your grandchildren demand that the McMansions of East Dallas be saved as "premier exemplars of 2010s faux historic driveway-contractor design?" Does history have no taste? And to your questions: of course.

Anon
Anon

Old isn't always good, but you need to look into the quirk of accelerated depreciation if you want to understand what happened to building standards in the US. Buildings became not long-term investments but short-term tax deductions. Building standards deteriorated markedly because most of the value in the building was tied up in the tax deduction, which was effectively gone in a short number of years because of the accelerated schedule. It makes de-novo builds more attractive because you get your money back more quickly through the tax deduction. This, of course, was the point. This change happened in 1953 when most government policies and spending were focused on getting middle class families out of inner cities and wanted the private market to capitalize on the free money of the highway system. It's how building all the new shopping centers in the undeveloped parts of cities happened, which was the point. I'm not saying it didn't accomplish what it was intended, I'm just saying let's recognize a socially engineered government tax policy for what it is. The phrase "they don't make them like they used to" is an overused inter-generational insult, but in the case of building standards it is often (though not always) very true. Why do you think it's so expensive to retrofit old commercial buildings with modern amenities and code requirements? Again, I'm not saying that everything old is worth saving. I'm simply pointing out that your house has held up better than a lot of the crap that was thrown up in Dallas in the 1970s and 1980s despite being twice as old, and it's not just a coincidence. 

Dalguy
Dalguy

JIM,  You don't just have plumbing problems, you are wired weird as well.

Alsoanon
Alsoanon

 Hey Jim, you didn't mention the tortured history of Crozier Techs' landmark status, which does have some bearing on the matter.  DISD sold the building to investors in the early 90s with the assurance that they could tear it down.  The City landmarked it soon after, with meant the new owners could not tear it down or neglect it to death.  They sued and the case went through the courts to the state supreme court that sided with the City.  So after 10 years of litigation the City is going to allow it to be demolished?  Also, if you look at the developers' eyewash you guys published a last week, you would notice that according to the developers, the best use for this really great urban site is 5 story finger jointed stick frame condos over structured parking. Which nicely proves Anon's point about building to the depreciation cycle.

Anon
Anon

No, they didn't all hit rock bottom. But property values were pretty damn low in Jim's neighborhood. Many of the people I know who live there remark that it's been years since they'd have been able to afford the current market price of their homes.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

I wish you newcomers would get it right all areas of East Dallas did not hit rock bottom somehow the Dallas morning news has been good at painting an area as good or bad and it's just not true.If you can get a map ride around Dallas where you think it's bad you will have a complete mind change.

Anon
Anon

this is right. people are often times "improving" homes by taking out sturdy old things and putting in new, crappy things they bought at Home Depot. it's even worse in areas like East Dallas where you live, because those homes hit rock bottom and there were lots of people who got ideas that they were going to buy a cheap house and make some quick fixes for themselves. also, it is completely possible to insulate an older home to be as energy efficient as a new one. it's just expensive and annoying to live in the home while it's happening. so most people do patch jobs and small fixes around the edges.

JimS
JimS

Yeah, we have some of those in our area, too. I don't know who to blame our woes on at our house. The plumbing problems, now sort of solved I hope, date from the renovation by the hands-on lawyer who skipped school the day they taught that water runs downhill. At least I know who not to hire to represent me if we ever have flooding problems.   

JeromeWeeks
JeromeWeeks

 Um, Jim, you're talking about a/c and energy efficiency and insulation -- factors which weren't considered when your house was built, factors which weren't even dreamt of. It's kind of an apples to kilowatt comparison. I own a wood-frame house not far from yours, not nearly as nice or renovated. It's more than 80 years old and it's a drafty sucker, a real energy suck. But it doesn't leak, never has -- as long as there's been sensible upkeep. A couple years ago, my wife was at a yard sale at a nearby McMansion, it suddenly began to rain and the sale quickly moved indoors. The homeowner promptly began setting out pots and pans. The house was not even two years old and she was preparing for the inevitable roof leaks from the rain. The couple was having the yard sale partly because they were selling the damned thing.

JimS
JimS

I know this is dearly held dogma, but I can't help wondering how true it is. My wife's cousin is a builder of high quality custom homes and re-fits. We were at my house one day, and he was telling us about a house he was building in Highland Park that was huge by my standards, meaning 10,000 feet or something. I asked what the a.c. bill would be. Looking down at his chest, hye made a polite but pointed reference to the fact that, sitting in my dining room, we could, as we spoke, feel slats of hot air blowing in from outside doing battle with a deluge of cold air coughing out of my diesel-powered a.c. machine. He said he thought the a.c. bill for a house four times the size of mine, built with modern materials, would be about the same or less than my bill.  You know: advances have been made.

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