In Museum Tower vs. Nasher, Tower Officials Say the Only Sure Fix is Fixing the Nasher Roof

Categories: Development

Museum Tower Thibodeaux.jpg
Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux
It seems like decades, or perhaps centuries, since we first started hearing about the feud between the Nasher Sculpture Center and its shiny new neighbor, Museum Tower, a high-end condo building owned by the pensioners of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

The latest development, aside from our Jim Schutze putting a rhetorical down payment on a studio condo there, was the resignation of attorney Tom Luce several weeks ago as the facilitator between the two sides. But that doesn't mean the pension fund has stopped looking for ways to resolve the problem, according to the pension fund.

At a "technical update" this morning at the system's Harry Hines headquarters, one of the architects on the Museum Tower project, Ahbijeet Mankar of Johnson Fain, walked some pension fund staff and several of the trustees through a slideshow of all the solutions they've considered. Among the board members present were three City Council members: Scott Griggs, Sheffie Kadane, and Jerry Allen. Delia Jasso, the fourth council member on the DPFP board, wasn't present.

The gist of the two-hour presentation was, essentially, that out of 20 proposed solutions to the glare issue, just three are feasible. The only small hitch there: all of them are ideas that the Nasher has previously rejected. Pension fund administrator Richard Tettamant said during the meeting that a solution to the dispute "will not happen in 2012."

The Nasher's director of external affairs, Jill Magnuson, seemed to agree, telling us the pension fund's meeting was "a publicity stunt."

The solution that the Nasher favors is adding louvers to Museum Tower. Those are, in essence, a series of mechanized shutters that could be closed at various times of day when the glare is the worst.

"We stand by the smart louver system," Magnuson said. "It's tested, and it's cost-efficient."

But the pension fund claims that the Nasher hasn't properly tested the louver system, and that it'll cost more than $20 million, instead of the $7 million or so the Nasher has projected. In his presentation, Mankar also claimed there are serious structural, practical, and aesthetic problems with retrofitting the building to add louvers.

One of the biggest is the inelegantly named "wind load." What that means, in English: Can the louvers stand up to really gusty winds, or would they perhaps fly off and kill someone? In addition, he said, the architects don't believe that they would completely cut the glare.

Numerous other solutions were also rejected by the Museum Tower team for various reasons, including adding light-diffusing film to the glass, hanging curtains on the exterior of the building, putting some kind of canopy between the two properties, or building "mechanical palm trees" to help shade the Nasher.

In the end, there's only idea that Mankar and the rest of the MT team seem really optimistic about. That's reorienting the "oculi" on the Nasher's roof, turning them so that they face northwest instead of due north.

"This is a 100 percent solution," Mankar said. The change to the light, he added, "would not be discernible to the human eye." Cy Cantrell, a professor of optics from UT Dallas that the pension fund has hired as a consultant, agreed.

Magnuson does not. "It's not a 100 percent solution, as it doesn't address our garden," she said. (The pension fund claims that the garden has not been harmed by glare; all the plant life is healthy, they say, and the thinning grass can be attributed to the type of grass the museum is using.)

Magnuson also says the oculi proposal "is flawed with information in regard to the workability. It's not about reorienting an oculi. What they're wanting to do is reduce the amount of light that comes into the museum. it's a very, very big difference. Take a symphony hall, like the acoustics in the Meyerson. It's like saying we'll reduce the amount of the acoustical support in the Meyerson. You've completely changed the environment. It's not a solution that we consider to be a viable option."

There are two other two ideas that the pension fund management seems amenable to, though they're not as jazzed about them as they are about the Nasher's oculi. These ideas involve putting a large, light-deflecting sculpture between the two properties, or else installing a mechanized canopy over the Nasher.

Those are also unacceptable, Magnuson said.

"I have heard about that," she said, referring to the sculpture. "Again, that was taken off the table by both parties in June, at our first big meeting. Furthermore, there's been a letter that we received a copy of in which the architect [of the sculpture] said that he's not willing to go forward with that idea."

"This is a publicity stunt," Magnuson added. "This is a distraction from the real issue. All of these things that they're discussing right now with the media are not things they're discussing with us. They're just trying to buy their time to not to get to a solution, in our opinion... That's the thing that is really happening here at the end of the day. This is all just a publicity stunt, and you are just privy to it."

To summarize: everything in that corner of the Arts District is still an enormous, seemingly intractable mess. No sign of that changing anytime soon. Carry on, everyone.

My Voice Nation Help
25 comments
TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Whenever I read about some of the proposed solutions to this dilemma, I can't help but picture Monty Burns' evil Sun Blocking Device that he was going to use to create eternal evening in Springfield in an attempt to bolster profits for his nuclear plant.

eleyman
eleyman

Jill Magnuson is a piece of work, calling this a "publicity stunt."  Real story?  This was a meeting the Mayor called, he wanted an update and didn't show.  3 council members who are trustees did come and got a full briefing in the Mayor's absence.  Interesting how it is okay for the Nasher to dismiss any idea with promise to remedy the reflection, except the "only one" they like, which is not a solution at all.  Truth?  The louvers the Nasher's architect Rick delMonte proposed are on a building in Singen, Germany called the Hegau Tower.  Look it up on the internet.  You know what the outside blinds are designed to do on that building?  Reflect the sun away from the building to improve its energy efficiency.  Get that, they reflect the sun not absorb it.   The manufacture says it will not modify the stainless steel blinds, like with some spray-on goop to cut the reflection, because it won't last and will peal off.   Plus, the blinds have never been put on any building taller than 18 stories and never in the kind of wild winds we get in Dallas.  And the artist concept of the inside view out of those windows with the blinds down?  Not real.  Check the internet, when the blinds are down on the building in Germany you can hardly see out and the building looks like a jail.  Nasher didn't tell you that did they?  Because their architect didn't do the research to find out, only did a lame power point to convince the Mayor to take sides against the Museum Tower.  The Nasher is proposing what it calls a quick fix that could not only damage Museum Tower, it could hurt somebody if one of those blinds blow off, and add to that their favorite louver fix reflects just like the glass does.  Plus, it will ugly up the arts district, trashing a beautiful building making it look like a jail or birdcage.  I don't know what the Nasher is up to or why it can't tell the truth.  

Mississippi
Mississippi

Had my crew down to the Nasher back in August, hot day, no clouds, the garden was a green as could be.  I asked one of the nice people there who told me they water 3 times a day.  Really?  How did they get permission to do that in the dead of summer?   My lawn was toasting and I couldn't water but a couple of times a week or face a fine.  BTW, my kids did not complain, and neither did I about the reflections from next door.  It didn't feel any hotter in the garden than anywhere else around town.   This is so much a do about nothing.  You folks really have too much time on your hands and very active imaginations.

markzero
markzero

Nasher should threaten to pack up and move to Fort Worth, renting the current space out to a homeless shelter for a buck a year. Would be a great place for it, convenient to Klyde Warren Park and all.

drtz
drtz

"What they're wanting to do is reduce the amount of light...  You've completely changed the environment. It's not a solution that we consider to be a viable option."

 

So The Nasher is even more disappointing when there's less light?  I guess I should be glad it wasn't cloudy last time I blew 20 bucks there.

paddyvonerich
paddyvonerich

Every time I read one of these stories I am always struck with the thought "what in the world is the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund doing investing in a speculative local real estate project?"  That's the bigger scandal in my opinion.  That pension fund, funded by us the taxpayers, has no business being the sole owners of a luxury high rise in their own back yard.  Who was the developer that built the structure?  Whose back got scratched?

 

I presume the pension is funded by property and sales taxes.  Just from a portfolio standpoint they are consolidating their exposure to Dallas real estate, not diversifying their risk as they should be.  I think it stinks.

oakcliffproud
oakcliffproud

The reason Delia wasn't there was because she and Carol Reed were at District 1 polling places passing out "Delia paraphanelia" along with a banner with a 'thank you for voting' message. Very pricey/fancy red, white, blue banner. So I guess Reed is her new campaign person for 2013.

lost
lost

 @markzero Wait I'm confused now, I thought the park WAS put there for the homeless?

RyanD
RyanD

 @drtz Stupid ass thing to say. Nasher is considered one of the finest Museums of sculpture in the entire world. In addition, also one of the finest examples of small-scale public architecture from a master architect, in the world.

 

If you didn't have a good time, then it's on you pal. Is the Tower getting people on here to troll?

MisterMean
MisterMean

 

I would imagine that the city betters, looking for money to further the arts district, thought that this was a great source to further promote their dreams of the arts district.  Kind of like writing a check to your self and depositing it thinking that you will be that much richer.   Dallas city government at it again!   What incompetent fools.   Reading about other municipalities where the pension funds are on the rocks-guess Dallas wants to keep up with them.

Mississippi
Mississippi

 @paddyvonerich You need to read Siam down below this post.  You presume wrong about how the pension is funded and how it makes investments and banks over $3 billion for Dallas police officers and firefighters retirements.  We are kind of like the Bailey Building and Loan (thank you Jimmy Stewart), we are invested in buildings and projects all over north Texas, around the country and the world.  That is what pension funds do to make the money necessary to pay our retirements.    The pension system got into this building when construction costs were down, when labor costs were down, provided over two thousand good paying construction jobs and now will pay over $9 million a year in property taxes to the city.   I think your misinformation stinks.

WylieH
WylieH

@paddyvonerich Dallas Police & Fire is fast becoming a poster boy as to how NOT to run a pension fund. What remains unclear as to whether the poor decision making is the result of incompetence, vanity or illegal behavior.

James080
James080 topcommenter

I remember not long ago when a Houston based computer vendor landed a multimillion dollar contract with DISD IT Department by providing the DISD IT Manager with a big ass blue water fishing boat to use as if he owned it.

 

Considering the DPFP investment in a speculative real estate deal that no other lender would touch, if I were a skeptical sort, I would probably look for any financial ties or perks passing between the tower developers and the pension fund trustees and its administrator and senior staff.  That is, if I were the skeptical sort.

 

Of course, if the tower fails, or the pension fund fails to generate returns sufficient to pay the retired police and fire pensions, Dallas taxpayers are on the hook for the shortfall. When there is no real skin in the game, its easy to speculate  with OPM.

danielle_whitney
danielle_whitney

 @oakcliffproud Oh, puhleeze. Prove that with a photograph or get your eyeglass prescription checked. Anybody can say anything on these blogs. I saw @oakcliffproud with a space alien chewing soy dog biscuits at Sunset High School.

Siam
Siam

 @RyanD  @drtz When you don't have the facts on your side make personal attacks.  So typical.  Snob.

drtz
drtz

 @RyanD  @drtz Stupid ass response.  I love art and sculpture and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE architecture, and although I can appreciate The Nasher and it's exhibits I really don't enjoy visiting it.  99% of the world's (and probably 99.99999 % of DFW's) population would be bored to tears in there.

 

Anyway, my point was that if The Nasher is so shitty that it sucks without the perfect ambient light, then they might as well just shut it down on cloudy days.  I think the ceiling they have in there is f'ing cool as hell, but it's horribly impractical given its downtown location.

 

This situation was inevitable without Dallas banning high-rise development around The Nasher, Museum Tower was just the unlucky first. Nobody saw it coming, but if anybody should have been looking out for it, it should have been The Nasher.

 

On a side note, I do like The Nasher's sculpture garden, though, more for the aesthetics of the "garden" part than the sculpture that sits in it. Ironically, I find the garden MUCH more appealing now with Museum Tower towering above it than I did before.  Go figure.

Guesticle
Guesticle

 @RyanD  @drtz It's nice, but let's not get crazy.  It's relatively small, and the art tends to be of interest to people of certain tastes but not others.  The fact that art and architecture snobs love it should be of no real consequence.  

WylieH
WylieH

 @MisterMean If you go back and look at the records, the decision to fund this deal apparently consumed over 3 hours of discussion behind closed doors--- Leppert's main man, David Neumann, (who voted with Leppert somewhere around 95% of the time during his time on Council), voted in favor of this deal.

 

Leppert absolutely LOVED touting this deal (along with the City-funded convention center hotel) as a sign of the City's growth and progress.

WylieH
WylieH

 @Mississippi  Just to put things in perspective, Dallas Police & Fire Pension System's "Unfunded accrued actuarial liability" as of January 1, 2012 is nearly $1.2 billion!  That is up almost 35% in just one year!

 

Bailey Building and Loan???? Hardly.

Siam
Siam

 @WylieH  @paddyvonerich None of the above.  The Pension system has become a poster child for misinformation spread by the likes of you and others who are misinformed and have another ax to grind.

Siam
Siam

 @James080 Uniformed and wrong.  The taxpayers do not own nor do they back up the Dallas Police and Firefighters Pension system.  The pension system is a self standing entity under state law, self governing and not under the control of Dallas City Council.  The city contributes about 33% of the money to the pension fund, another 33% comes from the contributions of individual police officers and fire fighters.  The rest of the money to pay retirement down the road for members comes from investments.  Pension funds, be they the DPFP or any other defined benefit plan or insurance instrument, are founded on the proposition that the trustees will make investments, both short and long term, required to generate the interest necessary to pay future pensions.  

 

The DPFP has over $3 billion dollars banked in all kinds of investments world wide for the benefit of the men and women of this town who put their lives in harms way to protect people like you.  The DPFP is one of the best managed pensions in the country, it just cut back on benefits paid out to keep the financial house in order in a challenging economy that everyone has been dealing with.  Dallas taxpayers are not and will not be on the hook for the Pension or costs of Museum Tower.  

 

You raise the spectre of graft among the trustees and administrators, that is serious stuff and you better be able to back up that crap, because those people are fiduciaries and subject to some serious criminal penalties for the kind of thing you suggest.  

MisterMean
MisterMean

 @WylieH    You are correct in that observation.   By the way I wonder what ever happened to David Cook the cities former financial officer.   I can’t help but wonder if he was getting concerned about the strange shenanigans going on and decided that he did now want to be around when it hit the fan (as it most certainly will)

WylieH
WylieH

 @Siam  @paddyvonerich If you can point me to the "misinformation," I would be happy to correct it--- but I'm not aware of any.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...