Dallas Wants to Ban Museum Tower-Like Death Rays from the City's Future Skyline

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Just when you thought the shark-jumping Museum Tower imbroglio couldn't get any more absurd, The Dallas Morning News' Steve Blow goes and writes a column comparing the spat that has riveted the Dallas Arts District for the past year and a half with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and paralyzed the Middle East for more than half a century.

There are an almost infinite number of reasons why making that analogy is ridiculous, but Blow's ultimate point isn't too far off base. The two sides have staked out their positions and refuse to budge, with each round of competing insults and op-eds entrenching them further. Public opinion is polarized, with anyone paying attention having taken one side or the other. There's no end in sight.

There's little the city of Dallas can do at this point to ease tensions. Mayor Mike Rawlings' attempts to mediate a solution last year failed. What city officials are doing is trying to make sure there's never a Museum Tower Part II. Regulations limiting the amount of glare from new buildings passed out of a city building committee last week, and are tentatively slated to go before the City Council in August.

"It's just like any other code provision," David Session, the city's chief building administrator, told Unfair Park. "Something happens in the society at large brings an issue to our attention, whether it's kids possibly being harmed by falling and so [we enact] requirements on guards for windows. Things like that."

Except in this case it's not falling children the city's worried about. It's life-withering beams of light.

To remedy that, the proposed ordinance (see below) would cap glass reflectivity at 15 percent for buildings greater than three stories tall. Builders can exceed that threshold only if they hire an engineer who can demonstrate the glare won't negatively affect "pedestrians, motorists, adjacent areas, landscape, air traffic, and existing buildings."

Measuring the reflectivity of a building's glass gets fairly wonky, and Session couldn't give any examples of buildings in Dallas that would rate at 15 percent. The Dallas Business Journal's Candace Carlisle, who first noted the proposed change on Thursday, reports that Museum Tower's glass comes in at 44 percent and uses "the most reflective glass you can buy in America."

Carlisle also reports that these waters are relatively uncharted. "This is the first time, or the only city I know, that's doing this," Phil Sikes, an assistant building official with the city, told her. "We're cutting-edge on this."

The new regulations, if passed by the council, will apply only to future construction, meaning Museum Tower can continue frying its neighbors in full compliance with city code.

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38 comments
Obummer
Obummer

Yo Steve Blow knows how’ta votes right; leaves muh bro alones. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

"This is the first time..."
No, this isn't the first time.  Every civil engineering student covers this in school - and it's not just about buildings.  Freeways, parking lots and zone lighting all are covered in civil engineering courses, even to the extent of theoretical issues for emerging materials at the graduate level.

If the city's engineers don't know about glare control, it's because they're not really civil engineers at all.

kduble
kduble

Saying Steve Blow is "comparing the spat that has riveted the Dallas Arts District for the past year and a half with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" is ridiculous. You're taking his remarks out of context. Noting Patton died in an auto accident isn't comparing auto safety with World War II.

Blow likens the dispute to the Middle East conflict for "similar rancor, recrimination and failed peace efforts." It's the intransigence of the parties he's talking about, not the methods they use.

Blow further notes the dispute is like "a door ding between a Maybach and a Maserati in the parking lot of the polo matches." You neglected to mention that.

MisterMean
MisterMean

I may have a biased view on this.    For example my thinking:  I am the city council- I love my arts district at the cost of all other areas of the city (except the Trinity Toll Road and more suspension bridges).   Where can I get more money?  Gotta have more money.  Raise taxes (no can do)   Where can I get more money?  Oh I know the pension fund for our Police and Fireman.  What a win win situation.   Invest in the museum tower ( a high risk potentially high return (risk and return go together) as most of the investments of that pension have been pointed out to be) and we can add to the arts district at no cost to the tax base-the pension fund will have been given a bone to chew on and every ones happy.  


Except that the win win idea is a death ray on everything that it touches.   Nothing says Dallas like a death ray tower and a white water rapids park in the Trinity that kills people.

jamessavik
jamessavik

If it's called "the Eye of Sauron", does that make Dallas Mordor?

Americano
Americano

Somehow, I remain unmoved by either camp. 

MikeyLikesIt
MikeyLikesIt

That should've happened when they built Campbell Center on Central and N.W. Hwy.  It used to blind people on Central until it got old and dirty.

Maybe that will happen here in 40 or so years.... Museum Tower will get really old and dirty and stop reflecting such light.  

I'd prefer they just tear it down.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

You know on the plus side for the Nasher they don't have any ant problems anymore.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Based on my experiences with Staff at City Hall and Suhm, I'm going to assume that Staff knew that there could be potential glare issues but not knowing upon whom, what building or at what point. The issue probably came up and Suhm squashed it and told them to keep quiet and move on. They don't fart or sneeze without Suhm's blessing.

aliberaltexan
aliberaltexan

Don't worry.  Dallas isn't likely to get another tower in the near future.  Just sayin'...  I mean, downtown is half empty and half of those buildings went bankrupt.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

" Public opinion is polarized, with anyone paying attention having taken one side or the other. "  Really?

I'd be willing to be most of the public either doesn't know anything about this, or doesn't care one way or the other.  Wealthy art patrons and wealthy real estate developers are not 'the public', they're a small part of the public.  My guess is 'public opinion' on this is somewhere between "huh?" and "not now, I'm busy".

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Wait, I thought that with all our terrible air from those despicable coal plants that everything would be coated with carbon black and at 0% reflectance by now.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I have a question to which I have never seen an answer.  For just how long each day does the reflected light from the Museum Tower shine onto the Nasher?


From the reports I have read, it sounds as if the glare occurs from sunrise to sunset and if you are caught in this glare, it is so powerful it will vaporize you in the same manner as a vampire caught in the Arizona desert at high noon.

WylieH
WylieH

["This is the first time, or the only city I know, that's doing this," Phil Sikes, an assistant building official with the city, told her. "We're cutting edge on this."]

Color Mr. Sikes wrong so both counts.

1)  Several other urban cities already have such ordinances on the books.

2)  Even more disconcerting, the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, subject to PD193, ALREADY has such a provision in place.... but I guess the City doesn't know it's own Code... WTH?

See:  "Sec.51P-193.127 Structure Facade Standards

(b) Highly reflective glass prohibited. Highly reflective glass may not be used as an exterior building material on any building or structure in the SPD. For purposes of this subsection, highly reflective glass means glass with exterior visible reflectance percentages in excess of 27 percent. Visible reflectance is the percentage of available visible light energy reflected away from the exterior surface of the glass. (The higher the percentage, the more visible light reflected and the more mirror-like the surface will appear.) (Ord. Nos. 21859; 25267)"

So, Dallas already has such a provision in another section of the Development Code, they just don't know it, evidently.




Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Just tear down both buildings and start over. That's what we do here anyway.

d-may
d-may

I'm not sure why this is considered novel. There are examples of this in the city's code already. For example in PD 621.113:

"(3) The maximum permitted reflectance of glass used as a facade material varies depending on where the glass is used. The reflectance of glass used on the first two stories may not exceed 15 percent. The reflectance of glass used above the first two stories may not exceed 27 percent. Reflectance is the percentage of available visible light energy reflected away from the exterior surface oft he glass. The higher the percentage, the more visible light reflected and the more mirror like the glass will appear."

ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

This is one of the worst managed issues in the history of the City of Dallas. There is so much bad blood between all parties that neither will ever listen to the other or come up with a solution everyone can live with. The money wasted on fancy video presentations and newspaper ads isn't moving anyone closer to a solution. The Mayor's attempt to mediate was well intentions but feeble.  

engmofo
engmofo

It's defiantly inhabited by enough Orcs

kduble
kduble

@aliberaltexan  It's commercial space with high vacancy. Museum Tower is residential.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

@everlastingphelps Nah, doesn't do anything to the buildings, just kills the people that live in them.  Kinda like the neutron bomb.

Bremarks
Bremarks

@WylieH Not the first instance of City Staff forgetting about (or ignoring) PD 193. Nor, unfortunately, will it be the last.

d-may
d-may

@WylieH I know Sikes, he's a smart guy and knows the code. My guess is he was miss quoted by the press that rarely has any clue what they are talking about.

glenn.hunter
glenn.hunter

@d-may 

If the "reflectance" above two stories can't exceed 27 percent under city code, then why hasn't the city moved pro-actively to fix the situation or fine or otherwise keep Museum Tower from operating, since this would indicate it's in violation of the law?

kduble
kduble

@ptmoore2012  I'm growing weary of this dispute, which is ultimately about the negative interaction between two legally constructed buildings. The point of the article is a proposal to tone down reflecting glass. That's worth discussing.

Guesty
Guesty

@ptmoore2012 It's the worst of all worlds because it in pits the most insufferable, entitled groups in Dallas against each other--rich "there isn't a city counsel member we haven't bought off" property developers vs. rich "maybe we can close our eyes and pretend we live in NYC but without the poor people" culture whores.  Neither group cares about 99% of the City.  Both groups grossly overestimate their importance and contributions to society at large.  Both groups are heavily invested in their own narcissism.  And neither group is used to having to make any compromises.  

We'd all be better off if we just ignored the whole thing.  Once the people involved figure out that nobody really cares, the rich people making the decisions now will loose interest and the working stiffs that have to make both buildings function might work something out once the egos have left the room.     

WylieH
WylieH

@Bremarks @WylieH Hmmmm.... that's a little unsettling.  Doesn't seem very "world class" to have a city where laws are randomly enforced, based on who possess the most guanxi.

WylieH
WylieH

@d-may @WylieH Fair enough... as you point out below, the City already has adopted such standards in the Design District and Oak Lawn.  It's not like they are starting from scratch.

WylieH
WylieH

@glenn.hunter @d-may PD621 (which d-may cited) only applies to the Design District.  PD193 (which I cited) only applies to the Oak Lawn area.

As an aside, both ordinances have been on the books for at least 10 years.... it's unsettling that the City doesn't appear to be aware that these provisions already exist in other sections of the building code.  Maybe someone should teach the City how to use the "find" feature to perform keyword searches on its own building code.... 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@glenn.hunter @d-may 

PD ("Planned Development") are site specific ordinances, the PD only applies to that property, as opposed to zoning classifications that are applied on property types ("R" for residential, "O" for office uses, "C" for general commercial, etc.)

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Guesty @ptmoore2012 

you have the Police & Fire Pension Fund, and its beneficiaries, in which "rich" group?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ptmoore2012

the issue is both.

Time will tell if the investment will yield the returns, frankly the risk of investing in a luxury residential high rise in Dallas is not appropriate for a pension fund to take on. The real estate segment of luxury high rises is unproven in Dallas, so the underwriting by a pension fund, who should be fairly risk averse, would typically produce a no.

The issue of the glare was produced by the decision to increase the building's height. If the original plan for a 22 story building had been put on the ground the glare wouldn't be an issue. The height was increased to juice the return. A bad decision.

You call it "sicking the media", I call it publicizing the problem. If the problem wasn't a result of the Museum Tower building design there wouldn't be an issue would there? The development has no one to blame but themselves, they made their bed and now they have to sleep in it.

ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

@mavdog The issue is the glare - not whether the building was a good investment. Sicking the media on the Pension Board was part of a plan to put pressure on the board to change the building. It is easy to see whose fingerprints are on the campaign. The mayor has also failed in the role of honest mediator - siding with the Nasher from the beginning. This is a mess. It reflects (pardon the pun) badly on Dallas as a whole.  

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Guesty

Not sure you can say they are "trying to become" one of the "rich developer camp". After all the benefits inure to the beneficiaries.

they made the investment (IMHO) because the yields were pro forma'd at a return that made their eyes bug out, and the project was sold as one that was going to be a benefit to the City. the proverbial bag of promises...

There are current and retired police and firefighters on the board, the board approved the investment in the building.

I too am of the opinion they should not have funded this investment, or at the least not without other investors taking on the risk.

But I disagree with the reference you make to "the most insufferable entitled groups in Dallas". One, the DP&FPF is not one of those "entitled groups", and two those who are visitors to the Nasher are a wide assortment, both rich and not, young and old. Just because they admire the art doesn't make them "insufferable" nor "entitled".

ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

@Guesty @mavdog @ptmoore2012 That is the spin the Nasher's PR folks have tried to put on it. Doesn't help solve the problem. People are off on too many rabbit trails. This is like people stopping on the side of the road to see police and firefighters clean up a really bad wreck. Lot's of blame to go around but not if both sides continue with their current strategies.  

Guesty
Guesty

@mavdog @Guesty @ptmoore2012 The Fund is in the rich developer camp.  At least, that's what it is trying to become.  Why else get into the very risky property development business?  

As far as the beneficiaries, I haven't seen many retired or current firefighters or police officers getting involved.  If they do, I hope they get their pound of flesh from the folks who decided investing a disproportionate amount of their retirement savings into a single property development was a sound decision.  

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