Monday, April 23, 2012

Saving the Past

Early plans are in the works to convert the currently vacant Tower Petroleum and Corrigan Tower into residential buildings. These two are right across the street from the building my family lives in at this time, so I have taken an active interest in these two buildings for some time.

I have avoided posting about this at first because I don't feel I am a news source. I try to stay more towards the editorial side. However, after thinking it over, I think there is one very important thing that can be learned from this.

Several years ago, there was a proposal to convert the Tower Petroleum to a hotel and demo the Corrigan Tower to make way for a 50-story condo tower. The reason given was that the Corrigan Tower was beyond saving (see post #188 here).

This is the point I want to make. I am a historic preservation advocate. From a cultural perspective (seeing where we came from), from an urban design perspective (old buildings are usually more urban than new) and from a lost perspective (when it is gone, it can never return), I generally side on the case that preservation is paramount, especially when you consider that Dallas' downtown is not short on open, empty or vacant land. Destroying a building when there is a parking lot across the street is a net loss to society and the area.

Back to this particular story. I always suggest taking the idea of demolitions with a critical eye. In this case, there is a developer who wants to do it right. He sees the value in this building. Oftentimes, people look at architecture from the '50's and '60's and say they are ugly and need to be demoed. While I don't disagree with the first, I do with the second. There was a time when Dallasites thought Old Red Courthouse was ugly and needed to be razed. Nowadays, this building is considered a gem. While I sometimes wonder if these buildings will ever be considered beautiful again, I do know they need to be carried over until the next generation, if for no other reason than to avoid a situtation like Old Red.

These two pictures are from my wedding day. These would have been impossible if prevailing thought of the '40's and '50's had won and Old Red was razed.
There is almost always a way to make an old building work. Sometimes there are cost issues and that's where I would say local governments can help with TIF payments, tax abatements or other incentives. But often times the developer just wants a blank slate and will say it can't be saved. That may be okay for them, their architect, but for the rest of us, we don't come out ahead.

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