Developer Still Plans to Raze 1929 Humble Service Station in Oak Cliff

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OOCCL
The 1929 Humble Oil service station's days are numbered.
Neighbors have pretty much given up on saving the vaguely octagonal white-and-blue building at the corner of Zang and Beckley that housed a long-departed Humble service station.

Developers Jay Song and John Chong plan to demolish the 1929 structure to make way for a convenience store. It's going to happen. The Lake Cliff Historic District ends across the street so, as long as they stay within city code, they can do what they want with the property.

"Legally, there is nothing any of us can do to save the building," said Jennifer Thornton, president of the Lake Cliff Neighborhood Association. "That's life in a transitional neighborhood."

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The Dallas Arboretum No Longer Wants the City to Turn Winfrey Point into a Parking Lot

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Update 12:45 p.m.: City spokesman Frank Librio sends word that, on second thought, there is plenty of parking available for the Chihuly exhibit at the Arboretum and no need to mow Winfrey Point.

Attendance numbers for the current exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum appear to be within the facility's ability to manage parking flow with existing on-site parking and existing overflow parking options. However, parking challenges at the Arboretum and at White Rock Lake still exist and long term solutions will be addressed as both locations increase in popularity. For the time being, the temporary parking option at Winfrey Point will not be exercised. The City will continue to seek long term solutions that will balance increasing trail use, special events, and all recreational uses with adequate traffic management and parking options.

Original post: Score one for the little people. The Dallas Arboretum sends word this morning that Winfrey Point, the postage stamp of virgin grassland (or invasive weeds, if you prefer) that's been at the center of a recent legal and botanical imbroglio, won't be mowed for parking after all.

The move comes after a grassroots protest campaign from left-wing pinko environmentalists who take the completely outrageous view that, hey, there's a shit-ton of concrete in Dallas. Why not park there?

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The Dallas Arboretum's Winfrey Point-Attacking Botanist Had a Rough Weekend

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Not-at-all-Dr. Robert O'Kennon.
Late on Friday, we passed along a letter from the Dallas Arboretum celebrating an agreement with White Rock Lake neighbors that allows the city to turn the grasslands of Winfrey Point into a temporary parking lot.

It was a strange missive to begin with -- a botanical garden celebrating its ability to mow through plants for parking? -- but one part stood out so much it required bolding. It came in response to neighbors' claim that Winfrey Point was "an endangered ecosystem in that it contains pristine, native grasses."

And it came from a botanist with one of those impressive PhDs in his title.

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Dallas Arboretum and City Hall Want You to Know: Winfrey Point Ain't Paradise, And They're Not Paving it Anyway

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Jay Barker
After an agreement was reached earlier to let the city mow the wild grass at Winfrey Point, both City Hall and the Arboretum have come out firing PR-wise, trying to turn the tide of support for keeping cars off of the "prairie."

Below you'll find releases sent by both City Hall, which swears it's got no plans to pave the point, and the Arboretum, which enlists a botanist who pretty much calls Winfrey Point a big patch of weeds. (I put that part in bold.)

Protesters like the ones above were out at the point all day, but they didn't get much action: The city says it won't plow before Monday.

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And Off the Mowers Go to Winfrey Point

Categories: Preservation

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Jay Barker
Protesters gathered at the point this morning.
While Jim's wife hosed out the dog house over his Arboretum screed this morning, lawyers for the Arboretum and the city were in court trying to get a judge to let them turn Winfrey Point into a temporary parking lot, to prepare for the crush of visitors for this weekend's Chihuly exhibit.

Now comes word that a truce has been called -- for the moment. I just got an email from the court saying that the two parties are preparing to put an agreement into the court record. The News is reporting that that agreement allows the city to mow the grasslands to make room for the parking the Arboretum needs. Whether a permanent parking structure will eventually go up will be the subject of future court hearings.

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The Battle of Winfrey Point is an Opportunity for the Dallas Arboretum to Prove it Likes Plants

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Hey, Dallas Arboretum: Do you really not see how this is shaping up? You have one of two things staring you in the face. A great opportunity. Or a well-deserved black eye.

You are in court this very moment, hauled there by citizens trying to stop your plans to decimate a rare patch of virgin blackland prairie at Winfrey Point near White Rock Lake by using it as an overflow parking lot for yet another of your big-big, fake-looking, Yellow Brick Road plant shows.

The crowds you draw are so huge you probably can't even see around them to the even bigger crowds of people who save a hundred bucks and stay away. I will get in major trouble at my house for saying this -- I live with one of your greatest fans -- but I try to be in the stay-away crowd whenever I can get away with it. Because the Dallas Arboretum, for me, has nothing to do with plants, flowers or gardens.

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Council to Get Sneak Peek at Muni Building Redo, Update on UNT's Downtown Law School

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Looking east down the fourth-floor hallway of the Municipal Building Annex, which is currently in Phase 1 over its makeover
Mighty kind of Dallas City Hall to offer all these briefings wrapping up a few loose ends before I get up outta here. First Sylvan Thirty, then the old Dallas High School, then the Cotton Bowl, and now Old Dallas City Hall, which one day should become the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law. If, that is, the state Legislature approves funding the law school by June of next year.

Should that happen, says a briefing prepared for tomorrow's meeting of the city council's Ad Hoc Legislative Committee, then construction will begin 2014ish with a tentative opening date of fall 2015. Fingers crossed; toes too.

Ostensibly, the reason for the briefing has to do with construction at 106 S. Harwood (the Old City Hall, built in 1914) and the circa-'56 Municipal Building Annex on Main, once Dallas PD's HQ. The latter's in the middle of Phase 1 of its $9.3-million redo -- meaning, its third and fourth floors are being made new-n-improved. The photos contained therein shows off some of that work; nice bathrooms (including the unisexy offering on the fourth floor, how Starck Club).

So what happens after that? Well, says the briefing, some time in August the city hopes to start looking for someone to give the Old City Hall's exterior a proper clean-up; that, says the city, ought to be done by December 2013.

But the interior rehab will be a difficult chore for myriad reasons, among them ...More »

Dallas Center for Architecture to Argue: "Bright Lights, Great City?" Should Be Illuminating.

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Photo by Justin Terveen
Long before the downtown Omni opened we were treated to a sneak peek of its light show, which folks either think is the right shade of shiny or plain tacky, a debate that becomes especially heated when you add in the new-look Reunion Tower and all the other lite-brites decorating downtown. And speaking of Reunion, Justin's photo above is how it looked on Valentine's Day; turns out, "Red Ball" isn't just Jason Garrett's nickname anymore.

All of which reminds me: Greg Brown over at the Dallas Center for Architecture sends word of a back-and-forth concerning this very subject scheduled at its Woodall Rodgers HQ February 28 beginning at 6 p.m. From Brown's heads-up about the center's inaugural, takes-its-name-from-this "Point/Counterpoint" panel:
What is the impact of this phenomenon on the image of our city center? Does it enhance the vibrancy of our downtown? Does it add to the architecture or is it merely used to mask less-than-great design? Does it attract urban dwellers or simply keep them up at night?
KERA 's Jeff Whittington will moderate the panel that'll feature the likes of architect Scott Lowe, who's responsible for the Omni; preservationist architect Marcel Quimby; and Patrick "Car-Free" Kennedy, among others. Details here.

Vote For These Local "Precedents of the Past" And Score Preservation Dallas $10,000

Categories: Preservation
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Speaking of vacant buildings ...

Emily Simon at downtown-based ARCHITEXAS directs our attention to a competition being sponsored by Dwell magazine wherein folks are being asked to vote for their favorite endangered historic structure, after which the winning city's chief preservation org will be handed a check for $10,000. In our case, of course, that would be Preservation Dallas.

Simon says the firm submitted the three Dallas offerings: the old Dallas High School (or Crozier Tech, take your pick), the Knights of Pythias Temple in Deep Ellum (or the Union Bankers building -- again, your call) and some of the historic schools the Dallas ISD voted to shutter last month, chief among them James Bonham, which preservationists fear will wind up like David Crockett (before it was bought, of course) given the district's awful track record of up-keeping old buildings.

The Knights of Pythias Temple, of course, is a Westdale property; thanks, Westdale. But that reminds me: I should call Wynne/Jackson to see if their fingers-crossed plans for Crozier Tech are still in motion. Anyway. The money would be nice, says Simon, but ARCHITEXAS also wanted to "bring more national attention to these important structures."

Vote here, early and often. Only 10 days left.

For Sale: A Dozen Photos of the Mighty Mercantile National Bank In the 1940s

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Photo by Harry Bennett, via eBay seller "ericdatz"
A couple of years back we virtually toured the Mercantile Bank Building as it looked following its 1958 redo, when Heritage Auctions made available 17 never-before-seen photos of R.L. Thornton's skyscraper taken by legendary Chicago-based architectural-photo firm Hedrich Blessing. Those photos, offered in a single package initially guesstimated to be worth several thousand, never did sell (thought for sure Forest City would have snapped 'em up). Only recently, on behalf of a still-interested Friend of Unfair Park, I asked Heritage's PR man Noah Fleisher is the seller was still interested in parting with the pictures. He said he'd look into it.

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Photo by William Langley, via eBay seller "ericdatz"
Then, a couple of days back, Friend of Unfair Park PeterK dispatched me a trio of photos taken inside the mighty Merc in the 1940s, not long after it was finished in '43. Back then, of course, it was a significant structure for myriad reasons: It counted among its architects Walter W. Ahlschlager, famous for his work in Chicago and New York City. It was, by all accounts, the sole significant skyscraper built in the U.S. during World War II. And it was, till '54, the tallest building in the city.

Turns out there are far more than three photos of the Merc being sold on eBay: A seller in San Diego is sitting on a dozen, each still sitting a mere $9.99 with four days left, all but one taken by William Langley, whose own career appears to span the rough-n-tumble days of the Dallas Dispatch to the Texas Centennial Exposition in '36 (where he rounded up "beautiful bevies") to an ad assignment so unusual (at the time, at least) it landed him in Life magazine in 1959. (And Langley, intriguingly, mentored a young Jeff Kimball, who would go on to become the cinematographer responsible for the look of Top Gun, among other familiar titles.)

I'd begin the tour here. Then, in no particular order: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and, finally, here. Interestingly, the last photo -- the only one with actual people in it -- wasn't taken by Langley. At least, it's not credited to him. Rather, says the seller, the back of the photo is stamped: "HARRY BENNETT - 2108 McKinney - Dallas, Texas Phone 7-4906."

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