Museum Tower Doesn't Look Like Something That's Coming Down Soon

Categories: Schutze

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Took the tour yesterday at Museum Tower, the new 42-story condo tower accused by The Dallas Morning News of torching the Nasher Sculpture Center in the arts district downtown with its reflected light.

I'm no architecture critic. But, wow. Pretty damn sweet. Oh, not the torching. Sorry. I meant the building. Museum Tower. It's very cool. The torching is another matter entirely.

The News' editorial page always paints a bad impression of the tower and the people who built it. The other day they had an editorial saying the tower's offer to pay $5 million for an adjustment in the roof of the Nasher was "as condescending as it is dismissive."

So when I hiked over there for my tour, I figured I was going to see some kind of condescending dismissive place that looked like Mafia headquarters in Vegas. Instead ... what can I say? When you get inside, the whole place looks like a movie. They showed me one unit that covered an entire floor with wrap-around windows and balconies and a view just about all the way to Oklahoma.

smaller_museum_tower.jpg
Museum Tower
So what do we think, they just blow this thing up?
Most of the support is from the interior core of the building, so the units have these huge, very tall glass walls. You really feel like you're walking on clouds. It's all high-end finish, of course.

I looked down from another unit to the Nasher Sculpture Center and garden across the street, and it sure did not look like a very torched place to me. I saw a deep green forest of healthy trees including some abundantly flowering ornamentals. I did see some yellow patchy looking grass. But guess what! I looked all around at the rest of the arts district in every direction including Klyde Warren Park, and all I saw was crappy yellow grass, most of it way worse than the Nasher. All that means is that Dallas is not Connecticut, and people who plant water-sucking northeastern-bred grass lawns are going to have yellow sucky lawns a lot of the year. Plus, the other thing that was strikingly visible when I looked out from Museum Tower: All the buildings around it are glass.

I'm not even going to make any jokes about money and who can afford to live in a place like Museum Tower. We all know who can't. Me. But if somebody could afford something like that, I can see how Museum Tower is where he'd want to be. And why do I care about that? OK, which is better? Having the super-rich living downtown in the bosom of the city where we can keep an eye on them, or having them all out living out of view around some far-flung golf course sitting around drunk all day bitching about Obama? Hmm, I may need to weigh that one. OK, forget it. Anyway, Museum Tower is very snazzy.

The Nasher, a sculpture museum, was there first. Then three years ago construction began on the Museum Tower across the street, just north of the Nasher. The developers of Museum Tower had to jump through lots of hoops and meet all sorts of city guidelines and requirements, which they did.

Their building is fully legal. In fact, the developers say it goes beyond the requirements of the law. It's on track, they say, to win LEED certification, a designation of the U.S. Green Building Council, which promulgates a set of standards far more stringent than our own city code and zoning requirements.

The Nasher has a special roof made out of little tubes called oculi that catch the light at just a certain angle. Apparently at certain times of day, the light reflected off Museum Tower goes straight into those tubes and creates a glare inside the Nasher. But nobody planned that. No one foresaw it. It seems to me, if you put a bunch of light-catcher tubes on your roof, you're really gambling that nothing will ever change around you to make more light go into your tubes than you had planned on. In other words, putting light catcher tubes on your roof is rolling the dice to begin with. But that's just me.

Gregory C. Greene, one of the original developers of Museum Tower, showed me some plastic mock-ups of the roof pieces Museum Tower has offered to install on top of the Nasher, replacing existing roof pieces, in order to cut down on glare. Museum Tower has offered to pay the full $5 million for this permanent 100 percent good-neighbor solution. That's the one the Morning News said was condescending and dismissive. They think it's very upstart and impudent of Museum Tower to tell the Nasher to change one damned thing on its roof.

In fact the position espoused by the News and the Nasher is that the Nasher building itself, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is a work of art and asking that it be changed in any way is like suggesting a dye job and fake eyelashes for the Mona Lisa. I don't think so.

Piano is revered for some of his work, but his reputation is hardly set in stone. His buildings in Europe have been called everything from "ego-maniacal architecture" to "a sobering mistake." I don't see how the little building he did for the Nasher can be considered so artistically sacred as to be untouchable.

But be that as it may. A few readers here have suggested in comments that I may lack the necessary credentials to engage in architecture criticism, and in deference to their feelings and the sensitivity of the matter I have eschewed from making what might otherwise have been my response, which is go screw yourself. See? I have not said go screw yourself, have I? You know why? Because I have too much good taste.

This is all I want to say. These Museum Tower people have built a 42-story building that is like a modern castle in the sky for very rich people who want to live downtown. Go look at the web page. It is fantastic.

They met all the laws and codes and requirements. They say they have gone beyond beyond. They sound urgent and sincere when they say they want to be good neighbors and resolve the thing about the Nasher.

Here's the point. Museum Tower is not going away. Gradually, very rich people from far and wide are going to come take the tour like I did, and, unlike me, some of them will put down deposits. Steve Sandborg, vice president of sales and marketing, told me he was closing on three units this week. At upwards of $4 million per unit, that's a lot of closing in one week.

The News and other champions of the Nasher have suggested repeatedly that rich people will not want to live in Museum Tower because they won't want to make the Nasher mad at them. Hey, if we were to have a Worldwide Condescending and Dismissive Olympics, I think that one would take the gold.

Are there that many really rich people out there who are afraid of sculpture museums? I suspect there are more who are not. In fact, in the multiple-house owning, globe-trotting, loosely tethered realm of people who can afford a place like Museum Tower in the first place, I suspect there are many who have never heard of this controversy and don't want to hear about it now.

The position of the Nasher remains absolutely inflexible on anything involving changes to the Nasher. Jill Magnusson, the Nasher's director of external affairs, told me: "The Nasher will not support any solution that does not address the entirety of the problem -- the impact of the glare on the Dallas Arts District as well as our indoor and outdoor galleries -- and therefore, the only solution is to fix Museum Tower."

But maybe the extreme touch-me-not posture on the part of the Nasher has a certain half-life to be kept in mind, a clock ticking. I predict in two years Museum Tower will be chock-a-block with very rich occupants who will then be its owners. So how much bleeding heart should we expect from that crowd? Oculi-shnoculi. At a point in time, all of this will be old, because all of this will be over.

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47 comments
MikeyLikesIt
MikeyLikesIt

Todays' DMN article looks like it was written by you.  Your voice on this topic however has been unrecognizable.  Now we learn that half these douches on here that pretend to agree with Museum Tower are probably just Mike Snyder and the Swift Boaters.  Did they cut you a check?  

Not good company Jim.  I respect you a great deal but "I am the anti-DMN" and "Fancy art is for rich people" isn't cutting it.  Especially when you couldn't get any more elite than the digs at the Tower.  

Where is your outrage about gambling fire and police pensions on high-end speculative real estate deals?  If you really don't care about one of the nicest gifts the people of this city ever got then why don't you at least care about that?  Does city money pay for this PR bullshit and are you part of it?  How does it feel to be the head cheerleader for a bunch of imaginary people?  

Creating fake people on Facebook to make people like you more sounds pretty high-school.    

Your fans would love to see you have an epiphany.  

mlandson
mlandson

On this issue, your point appears to be: The Morning News is taking one position, so I am going to take the opposite position. Not a very convincing argument.

I don't know how much time you spend down in the area affected by the MT's reflected glare, namely Klyde Warren Park, but the nuisance of the reflection off MT is not limited to the Nasher. The Nasher just happens to have money and people that support it and assets where a price can be placed the harm done to it. The general public and well being of the city is also affected negatively by it, but it's hard to place a dollar amount on harm caused by an individual saying "Jeez, get that darn light out of my eye!"

The question is, is it reasonable to hold up a mirror and reflect the sun directly into someone's eyes from another location that is not the sun? No! Sorry, it's not reasonable to do that! If I were holding a giant mirror across the street from your office and reflecting the sun's rays directly into your face so that you would have to close the blinds to avoid the nuisance, that would not be reasonable for me to do. This is exactly what the Museum Tower is doing to the whole area, including the Nasher.

Are you correct to say they will find enough multimillionaires that won't care if people look at them cockeyed upon hearing they live in Museum Tower? I wouldn't bet on that. Why would they want to live next to people that will hate them and think they are destroying not only a treasured asset of Dallas, but callously thumbing their noses at everyone while doing it?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

So. Dynamite everything except Museum Tower, then.

Check. *scribbles note*

nammer
nammer

I"m guessing Museum Tower's publicists invited you to tour their tower because you've proven to be on the side of the Tower in your past writing.  So they invite you over, schmooze you, show you some expensive condos that will impress you, then send you on your way to write the very story you have written.  I find it difficult to understand how you, who usually seem to be on the side of the "little people" are so firmly in the Museum Tower camp.  Maybe Museum Tower followed all the letters of the law, but how could they have not realized that mirrored glass would reflect light?  I learned that concept in first grade or before.  Maybe the city was remiss in allowing them to move forward, but as you say, the Nasher was there first, they are the ones with a building designed by a famous architect (who designed Museum Tower?) so to ask them to change their building is wrong.  Get your head out of your ass and realize you're being used.

icowrich
icowrich

LEED considers total impact on surrounding environments.  Light pollution is one of those considerations. 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

The potential buyers do not care about making anyone angry.  They simply see no need to invest in possible litigation.  Nasher has not spent a dime yet.  You cannot force someone to file a lawsuit.  Once it gets filed, if it does, it could go on for a long time.  Building regs do not shield you from causing actual damage.  We'll have depositions and expert testimony up the wazoo.  Meanwhile that glamorous Tower is burning cash over at the Pension Fund plus the legal expenses.

The Pension Fund could set aside a giant sum shielding future buyers from any future assessments or design changes tied to litigation.  Corporations do it all the time.  Then Jim's favorite new friends the Rich can buy into the Tower and let the Police and Firefighters worry about it.  It might work because it would hurt Nasher's leverage and force its hand.

Of course that would require some innovative thinking over at the Pension Fund, something that story after story shows is in short supply in that organization.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo remember men, da handyman's secret weapon iz duct tape.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Jim,

Glad you liked the nickel tour.  Did they have an open bar and serve sushi on the bikinied bodies of lithe "real estate agents"?   The other real story is how the Pension is investing its money; there are regulations associated with that issue.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

Jim doesn't know the development process.  That much is obvious.The fact that "they got necessary permits" is irrelevant. The fact it will become LEED certified is wholly irrelevant. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

So far there have been deeds transferred for 6 units at Museum Tower, they have 109 more to go...

my view is the Nasher should just take the offer to replace the occuli made by Museum Tower and go on down the road. It's the only offer that makes sense, and frankly it is about the best they can do.

there isn't going to be a new "skin" on MT, they aren't going to spend the $10's of Millions to put in new windows. they really don't have to, there isn't a reg or anything they are violating.

come on Nasher, just do the deal. we'll all survive, even your trees and grass....

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

The problem with the Big City is that it's never big enough to keep people from bumping into each other. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and you can't build Paradise in a parking lot. Somebody ought to write a song.

larry
larry

In two years the Nasher will be soliciting donations from the rich residents of Museum Tower and will shut up, smile, spread its legs, and take its fucking like the good whore it is.

ttrr
ttrr

You should catch hell from your wife about the "healthy trees."  If the charge about glare damage to trees is accurate, it would be a gradual weakening of the trees.  Once in stress, they are far more susceptible to pests and other maladies, most of which aren't quick kills.  Independent arborists could judge this, but visual inspection from people like you and me has little value.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Where are the photos you took of this beautiful place.  Man, that trip would have been perfect for "hatcam" Jim

drtz
drtz

"A few readers here have suggested in comments that I may lack the necessary credentials to engage in architecture criticism..."

Seeing how everyone has to look at it, I think we all have the obligation to criticize bad architecture.

Guesty
Guesty

@icowrich I know LEED considers exterior illumination (i.e. exterior lights used at night), but does it consider daytime reflectivity?  The regs seem mostly concerned about preserving the night sky.  A lot of LEED buildings are reflective (especially the roofs, which of course don't present the same issues as here).  This is a major way to accomplish energy efficiency in warm climates.       

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Yeah, but there's lawsuits and lawsuits. What's to stop Museum Tower from socking the Nasher with a huge tortious interference suit?

WylieH
WylieH

@primi_timpano You're dead-on about the manner in which Dallas Police & Fire is investing its money--- and the huge future costs that will end up being absorbed by first responders and Dallas taxpayers as a result.

Guesty
Guesty

@JohnSmallBerries I'm sure you're right about Jim, but I'd guess you don't know much about the development process either.  When is the last time you heard of a building being forced to make multi-million dollar changes to its exterior when it had already complied with code prior to its completion, all because of an unhappy neighbor?    

And you are too quick to dismiss the LEED certification:  that reflective glass the Nasher hates so much is the major reason it will get LEED certified.  

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@mavdog I really think the next step is a giant parasol ala Mr. Burns on the Simpsons.

Seriously, the Nasher is acting like they don't just own their land -- they own ALL the sky they could see when they put the last brick in the building.  Bullshit.  You own the wedge going up from your building.  If you didn't want something built next to it, you should have bought the land.  When it's your land, you can decide not to build on it.

craig.adam.jacobson
craig.adam.jacobson

@Guesty@icowrich

LEED is a point based system (the more points you earn, the higher rating earned; certified, silver, gold, and platinum), therefore you look at where you want to spend your efforts (money) to gain the most points possible, this approach varies for each project. LEED Credit SS-8 (Light Pollution Reduction) only gives credit to the reduction of artificial luminaries (interior and exterior lights, not sun reflection) to improve nighttime visibility. In the case of Museum Tower’s light reflection, LEED credit SS7.1 Heat Island Effect for Non-roof Environments is where the developers could have chosen (at their own liberty) to be more sustainable to their surrounding environment by providing shade from architectural structures that have a solar reflectance index of at least 29. But here is the real issue, LEED is not required, it is an elective design practice. In the end, the City of Dallas approved the design of the building through their own green building requirements and thus the MT has done nothing wrong in my opinion. One last comment about LEED, all the effort (again, money) that would go into reducing the SRI of Museum Tower by LEED credit 7.1 (large shading devices on the side of the building) is only worth 1 point, the same 1 point you earn for placing a bike rack at the front entrance of the building.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@JimSX  

Advocating SLAP suits now are we? Well, you wrote yesterday you were a partial attorney. You proved it again today.

glenn.hunter
glenn.hunter

@WylieH @primi_timpano 

Yes, the pension fund obviously has no idea how to invest its money. Guess that's why, in 2012, its investment return was 11.4 percent.

allanenglish
allanenglish

OMG....finally someone understands private property rights! Glad there are at least two of us that do.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @mavdog If you two keep winding up in agreement with each other like this, I'm going to have to rethink my entire perception of reality.

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@James080 Agreed, no tortious or wrongful conduct here, not by a long shot. You can't force someone to file a lawsuit.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@JimSX@James080 

Of course anyone can sue anyone else for any reason or no reason. Surviving summary judgment (and the negative public reaction) is another matter.

According to the internet, the Texas cause of action is as follows (number 2 would be a problem for Museum Tower):

INTERFERENCE WITH A PROSPECTIVE CONTRACT

    The elements of claim for tortious interference with prospective contract are:
(1) There must be a “reasonable probability” that the plaintiff would have entered into the prospective relationship or contract;
(2) An “independently tortious or wrongful” act by the defendant that prevented the relationship from occurring;
(3) The defendant did such act with a conscious desire to prevent the relationship from occurring, or knew that the interference was certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of the defendant's conduct; and
(4) The plaintiff suffered actual harm or damage as a result of the defendant's interference.
Johnson v. Baylor University, 188 S.W.3d 296, 304 (Tex.App.-Waco 2006, pet denied).

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James080 @JimSX 

Oh, you misunderstand. I'm not advocating. I'm just saying the civil courts are a pretty open playing field, and if one side finds a way to play, the other side may do so,  as well. And tortious interference is a claim with a long pedigree in the law, is it not? You know, like trying to shut down the other guy's sales to pressure him into doing what you want him to do with his building?  Is that all that far a stretch, really? I ask this strictly in the abstract and without reference to any particular case, of course. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Vanguard cannot tank. It is not leveraged and is only a custodian for customer funds.

Guesty
Guesty

@glenn.hunter @WylieH I think the idea is that a pension fund shouldn't have so many eggs in a single, speculative basket.  A stock market crash would also crater the value of Museum Tower (people don't spend $4 million on condos after they just lost their ass in the market).  You really can't invest long (the safe long-term play) while protecting yourself from economic collapse.  But that does not mean you have to expose yourself to huge potential losses on large speculative real estate plays that could fail entirely independently from the overall economy.  I'd say most people would also object to the pension fund making a large investment in a single small-cap stock, which would have many of the same risks.    

glenn.hunter
glenn.hunter

@WylieH @glenn.hunter Right. And if we had another stock-market crash and Vanguard tanked you'd be bitching how irresponsible the Fund had been to be overloaded in stocks. Bottom line on this is that, in your view, the Fund can't do anything right.

WylieH
WylieH

@glenn.hunterAt the beginning of 2012, the Fund had assets of just over $3 billion.  The stock market, in 2012, on a total return basis (including dividends) delivered roughly 15.5%.  If the Fund had just bought a diversified mix of Vanguard funds, after deducting 0.1% for fees, they would have earned 15.4%.  The difference between 15.4% and 11.4% is 4.0%-- apply that to the Fund's beginning balance of $3 billion and one observes that Police & Fire Fighters would have been $120 million better off if the Fund had simply sent the investment staff home and gone with Vanguard.

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@Guesty 

Really? I must have missed where I said all this. Can you quote me. I simply said that Jim's knowledge was lacking. I mentioned nothing of the other things you mentioned. Straw men are wonderful. Find someone else's to knock over.

I did not "dismiss LEED certification" either. I said rather literally it was irrelevant. That the building would capture rainwater, reduce runoff, generate electricity onsite, use local materials, and all the other things that it could potentially do to gain enough points under the system is wholly irrelevant to the issue. That the reflective glass is "a major reason it will get LEED certified" is simply not so. It might contribute a few points at most. 

With respect to it meeting code, that it also irrelevant. Almost all of those codes and standards like parking standards, setbacks, design criteria and so on are simply not related to reflectivity or even relation to a neighbor. It would be relevant if the City of Dallas , the PD governing the area, the base zoning, or whatever mechanism is in place to control design had reflectivity standards directly applicable this type of situation but none of those do as far as I understand.

Much of Jim's commentary is a big non-sequitar.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JohnSmallBerries @Guesty I'm guessing 'smallberries' is referring to either your brain or your balls, or both.  You're not displaying a high quantity or quality of either in this particular thread.

glenn.hunter
glenn.hunter

@Guesty @JohnSmallBerries 

In 2005, the recently completed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles had to sandblast some of its surfaces after neighbors complained about heat and glare. Don't think it cost multimillions, though.  

Guesty
Guesty

@JohnSmallBerries @Guesty You suggested that your knowledge of the "development process" leads you to the conclusion that a building can be forced to make multi-million changes to the exterior and that code compliance "is irrelevant."  You either were talking out of your ass or you have an example.  Now I know which of the two it is.  

Guesty
Guesty

@JohnSmallBerries @Guesty So answer my question.  When is the last time a building was forced to make multi-million changes to its exterior after completion even when those changes were not required by code?  

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@RTGolden1

"reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one"

einstein

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