<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Shells]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcdfw.com/feature/shells http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+5-KXAS+Logo+for+Google+News.png NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth http://www.nbcdfw.com en-us Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:12:01 -0500 Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:12:01 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[The Unused Super Collider Under Waxahachie]]> Sat, 28 Apr 2012 01:30:12 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/wax-superconducting-super-collider-722.jpg

Waxahachie, Texas is known by many for its Victorian architecture and picturesque town square. However, beyond the old courthouse lies another building of unique and historical importance.

Since 1993, the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), also known as the "Desertron," has sat vacant, surrounded by country roads and a dairy farm. What was once planned to be the world's largest and most energetic particle accelerator complex is now 200,000 square feet of empty factories and 14.6 miles of water-filled, underground tunnels.

How did this laboratory come to be and why was it left unfinished?

The project was first envisioned in 1983 by the National Reference Designs Study. The goal was to build a facility powerful enough to discover the Higgs Boson, a particle that is intimately related to the basic property of all matter and thought to give mass to everything in the universe.

Dr. Roy Schwitters, the SSC Project Director, saw the project as an opportunity to conduct breakthrough scientific research. The former Harvard professor and his family moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Dallas in 1989 to begin work on the buildings construction. However, Congress declined funding in 1993, leaving an unfinished laboratory and over 2000 staff members disheartened after devoting the past few years of their lives to the project.

“It was a huge disappointment for everyone involved,” Schwitters said. “As time has shown, it was a real loss of pace in science. We would have been running for ten years now.”

Although Schwitters cites Congressional funding as the major factor effecting the projects cancellation, there may have been other factors that contributed to the end result. This includes little support from presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, as well as the American public.

In an interview with Summer of Science, Dr. John Peoples, Project Director during the SSC shutdown, stated that unlike the NASA space program, the SSC and high energy physics “became too esoteric as a science for the public to relate to.”

After the project was canceled in 1993, the main site was deeded to Ellis County, which was unsuccessful in it’s numerous attempt to sell the property. An investment group led by the late JB Hunt purchased the site in August 2006 with plans to establish a tier IV data storage center. However, after Hunt’s death soon thereafter, the plans were abandoned.

Although the main facility has been vacant for almost 20 years, smaller buildings associated with the project have been bought and used for various purposes, such as a warehouse for plastic coffee cups.

On January 27, 2012 it seemed as some of the buildings on the SSC site may be brought to life once again when the site was purchased by the chemical company Magnablend. However, Waxahachie citizens are fighting against this purchase, concerned that the company will create air and water pollution in the area. 

Alex Schindler, a member of Ellis County Concerned Citizens and candidate for Ellis County Commissioner Precinct 3, says that the committee is fighting against the recent acquisition and would like more say in issues that could potentially effect the community.

However, Magnablend says that safety is the number one priority in going forward with the purchase and that they plan to maintain a relationship with committee and community members to address their concerns.

"We understand that the community has high expectations for us and we're committed to earning and keeping their trust," said Scott Pendery, CEO of Magnablend, in a recent newsletter.

Restoration and construction projects are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2012 and full scale operations are expected to begin in 2013.

Although the above ground facilities may once again serve a purpose, Dr. Schwitters says that he doesn’t see a future for the miles of tunnel that rest beneath the Waxahachie soil.

For now and, most likely, forever, the citizens of this small town will go about their lives, with one of the biggest what-could-have-beens in scientific history right beneath their feet.



Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Bomazi]]>
<![CDATA[Redevelopment Stalled on T&P Warehouse]]> Thu, 26 Apr 2012 10:44:05 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/texas-pacific-warehouse-012.jpg

Along West Lancaster, men and women in business attire walk to their cars parked along the side of the old Texas and Pacific Warehouse. Few give more than a quick glance to the 580,000 square-foot landmark that has stood strong since 1931.

Once a busy warehouse and office building, the structure is now just a shell of its former self, with busted windows, a basement full of water and a tree growing on the roof.

The warehouse was built by Fort Worth architects Wyatt C. Hendricks and Herman P. Koeppe. Along with Texas & Pacific Station, the warehouse is one of the last remaining Art Deco buildings in Fort Worth. However, the carefully laid exterior bricks now serve as a canvas for local graffiti artists.

In its heyday, the T&P Warehouse offered space for the storage, distribution and refrigeration of merchandise and produce. The eight story building also offered offices and showrooms for those wanting to consolidate their warehouse and showrooms in the same location.

The T&P Warehouse, along with T&P Station and the rest of Lancaster Avenue, began to decline in the late 1950s, when the elevated portion of Interstate 30 was built. The station shut down in 1967 when passenger service in Fort Worth ended. Although restoration on the station itself began in 1999, the warehouse has remained vacant.

After nearly four years of negotiations, the city of Fort Worth contracted with Dallas developer Cleopatra Investments in July 2007. Plans were made to begin residential development in the warehouse, although construction issues and economic conditions have delayed the project.

The owners are currently expecting the delays to last another two years, when a city street project that will occupy a portion of the site will be completed.

However, the continued delay may hurt this already deteriorating building.

According to Jerre Tracy, Executive President of Historic Fort Worth, the building needs to be professionally mothballed, windows need to be boarded up, the roof needs to be repaired and the water in the basement needs to be drained, for starters.

“This needs to get done because the building has been in a state of neglect for so long,” Tracy said. “People are ready for this project to happen. The sooner the better I think, for everybody.”

The warehouse, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, has been named on Historic Fort Worth’s Most Endangered Places list for the past six years and is a very strong contender for the 2012 list.

Public funds are available for renovation of the building, due to the National Register of Historic Places recognition. However, Tracy worries that if the renovation doesn’t start soon after the street construction is completed, the tax money will not hold out.

The good news is that the 81-year-old structure is not being ignored. If Cleopatra Investments decides to sell the property, developers from around the world have expressed interest in working on the project, and they are not the only ones wanting to see the building come to life once more.

"The warehouse, along with the T&P Terminal and Post Office all benefited from the public support to bring down the freeway that over-passed Lancaster," Tracy said. "It was a huge battle, but the public won. I think everyone wants to see the building in use once again."



Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Texas and Pacific Warehouse]]> Thu, 26 Apr 2012 10:29:24 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/texas-pacific-warehouse-001.jpg Photos of the Texas and Pacific Warehouse in Fort Worth.

Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fort Worth Public Market Awaits Redevelopment]]> Wed, 25 Apr 2012 11:24:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Fort-Worth-Public-Market-thumb1.jpg

Late 1929 was the beginning of the Great Depression, the economic crisis that would cripple most of the world’s economy in the decade before the Second World War.

But less than a year later, in February of 1930, the city of Fort Worth issued the year’s largest building permit to John J. Harden to build the Fort Worth Public Market.

The project was largely privately funded and cost the heady sum of $200,000, which would be about $2.7 million today. All this made it building of the market very important to the city commercially during the early stages of dark financial times, according to the Texas Historical Commission.

When the market opened, on June 20, 1930, over 20,000 people were in attendance, there was music from Michael Cooles and his orchestra, and Fort Worth Mayor William Brice addressed the crowd.

For a time the Fort Worth Public Market boomed, by 1931 fourteen business operated out the main building, most of the farmer’s stalls were rented and the market even had its own weekly radio program on WBAP.

However, by 1936, the market feeling the full effect of the Great Depression, with only one business remaining in the main building and only 12 stalls rented. Once a sign of hope in unstable times, the Fort Worth Public Market succumbed to the economic instability of the time and was forced to close in 1941.

Later the building would house an aircraft manufacturer which built planes during World War II as well as other tenants, notably Cadillac Plastics.

The main building has been empty since aviation manufacturer Photo Etch left in 2004. The Pantagleize Theater Group has occupied a separate structure since 2009.

The Public Market was designated a Texas Historical Landmark in 1980 and Historic Fort Worth has placed the building on its list on most endangered places three times. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July 5, 1984.

The city of Fort Worth has placed the building on "Demolition Delay," a protection that would provide a 180 day window between a developer filing a permit for demolition and the actual demolition taking place, in order for anyone opposed to make their case for saving the structure.

In 2010, the building which once housed the farmer’s stalls and wrapped around the building’s south and west sides was destroyed by a fire.

Despite being spared from fire, and reported redevelopment plans the building admired for its Spanish Colonial style architecture -- and once named one of the area’s best building by the Fort Worth chapter of the American Institute of Architects -- has fallen into disrepair.

During a walk around the building we noticed cracks in the concrete with weeds growing out them and graffiti. There were also numerous broken windows, some with what appeared to be bullet holes. The remains hollowed out of the burned former farmer’s stalls sit just yards from the main building. What’s left of the burned building -which runs along the south side of the main building-, bares a no trespassing sign the back wall is gone, with just a gate to keep people out. The part of the stalls which ran along the south side of the main building is gone.

We spoke with Edmund Frost, whose family has owned the building since 1944. He admits there have been some issues with vandalism in recent years. However, despite the fire and the vandalism, he believes the building still has great potential.

“We still believe that after renovations it will be wonderful architecturally and is still wonderful structurally," Frost told NBC 5. "We will hold out for someone who will do a good job and will make it an excellent addition to the city again.”

The site and structures are currently up for sale, waiting for a new developer to help the site that stood through hard times regain its former glory.



Photo Credit: Theresa Wilcox, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[What are the Shells of Our City?]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:07:52 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/DSC_1381.JPG

We love the "new" -- whether it's brand new skyscrapers gleaming on the horizon or a new house tucked away in a suburb like Frisco; a new hotel by a convention center or a boutique to buy the latest fashions -- we love the "new."

When the last "new" isn't "new" anymore, don't worry. We have the room to build more. But what is left behind?

They are the vacant or abandoned buildings that hold history stretching back before two world wars, through the ups and downs of economies, social change, and advancing technologies. They are the places outgrown, outdated, or outmoded -- each with a lengthy story and complex reasons why they are a shadow of their former glory.

These are the landmarks you've seen, but never known the story behind -- the places you remember from "the good old days." These are the "Shells of Our City."

We've covered classic hotels, early high schools, places of business in transition, and ruins from decades ago. In the weeks ahead, we'll follow the progress of technology in power and science, the change in business in Fort Worth, and one mall that continues to offer unanswered questions.

We encourage you to share your memories of these places in the comments field of each article.



Photo Credit: Kristy Chu, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Fort Worth Public Market]]> Wed, 25 Apr 2012 11:21:08 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Fort-Worth-Public-Market-005.jpg Photos from Outside the Fort Worth Public Market

Photo Credit: Theresa Wilcox, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fort Worth Power Plant Generates Questions]]> Tue, 24 Apr 2012 12:56:33 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fort-worth-power-plant-011.jpg

On banks of the Trinity River, a cornerstone of Fort Worth's utility history sits abandoned, awaiting its next generation -- or possible destruction.

The Fort Worth Power and Light Company Power Plant, sits just north of the Trinity from 100 to 300 N. Main Street near downtown Fort Worth. Built around 1912, the facility replaced an earlier Fort Worth power plant built in the 1890s.

Smokestacks above the plant previously used to spit out exhaust from the coal powered generators and displayed a face now familiar to long-time Fort Worth residents -- the power-generating mascot known as Reddy Kilowatt.

The facility generated power for the city until it was decommissioned in 2004. In September of the next year, the smokestacks that once towered over the river were demolished.

Drivers on N. Main heading from Downtown to the Stockyards, or visiting nearby LeGrave Field can see where the years of neglect have damaged the building. Windows are scattered, the roof leaks, and the interior beams are rusted. Though a chain link fence separates a space between the building and the Trinity Trails that wind around the area, there are places that someone could sneak in.

But looking across the water may give a glimpse into the future for the plant.

On the south banks of the river, the Tarrant County College District opened a new Trinity River East Campus in August of 2011. The campus is a modern, $185 million glass and concrete building that seems to jut off the hillside to point north over the river. One impressive view from the windows of the campus looks right at the vacant Fort Worth Power Plant.

The TCCD's latest campus is only part of the major Trinity River Campus that used to be the site of RadioShack's corporate headquarters. But it could expand even further, as the TCCD has owned the former power plant since 2004. According to the TCCD, the property was purchased for the construction of another campus in downtown Fort Worth.

But there's no clear plans for the site right now. "Future plans have not been determined," said Rita Parson, Coordinator of Public Information Services for TCCD.

With no historic or landmark declaration for the building, it's possible the plant could simply be demolished to make way for future TCCD expansion or other development. But the Historic Fort Worth preservation group, which has put the building on their "Most Endangered Places" list six times, wants to see the building restored using economic incentives that a "landmark" designation could bring.

Until plans for the plant are revealed, the site will stay silent, generating only minor interest for those driving or walking by.



Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Fort Worth Power Plant]]> Tue, 24 Apr 2012 11:06:03 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fort-worth-power-plant-001.jpg Photos from the decommissioned Fort Worth Power Plant.

Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[The Ghost Town of Six Flags Mall]]> Mon, 23 Apr 2012 12:32:14 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Six-Flags-Mall-008.jpg

Six Flags Mall is ghost town.

Located just a few miles from large attractions Six Flags Over Texas, Rangers Ballpark and Cowboys Stadium, the mall has suffered through the loss of tenants, management issues and failed attempts at the auction block. Forced to compete with bigger and newer shopping centers in other developed areas of town, the once thriving mall is all but empty.

When we visited the mall, we found multiple entrances still unlocked, allowing potential shoppers inside. We walked past the still open Cinemark -- which is a stand-alone tenant at the edge of the mall -- and through the almost empty food court, toward rows of vacant former stores. The lack of people and business creates a strange stillness, although music echoes in the empty hallways.

One wing was blocked off by signs and gates, keeping visitors from visiting the unoccupied mall. We passed one of two people who still work for the mall and asked why the area is restricted. They replied, “There’s nothing down there."

When Six Flags Mall opened in Arlington in 1970, it was the first covered mall in Tarrant County. Up the road from Six Flags Over Texas and the millions of potential customers who visited the amusement park each year, the mall seemed to be positioned for success.

Despite competition from the opening of the Parks mall in 1988, Six Flags Mall continued to do well until the late 1990s.

Starting 1997, though, the anchor stores pulled out. First to leave was JC Penney’s in 1997, followed by Dillard’s and Sears in 2002. Foley’s remained the mall’s final anchor until that closed in January 2005. However, Dillard’s returned with a clearance store in March 2005.

But, by then, the reputation of the mall was declining. There were multiple crimes, including the fatal shooting of shoplifting suspect who claimed to be armed. Car break-ins and other incidents in the area were also reported.

The management of the mall also declined.

In 2008, the electricity went out in the middle of the shopping day. Patrons and tenants had to be escorted out by the fire department. Because fire safety equipment- fire alarms, flashing lights and monitoring systems- need electricity to work the fire department deemed it a safety issue and shut down the mall until power was restored. It was later revealed the mall’s $349,226 electric bill had not been paid.

The mall fell into bankruptcy and fell into foreclosure six times in 2008. Since then, the International Bank of Commerce in Corpus Christi has owned the mall, attempting to put it up for auction as late as December of 2011. However, after a company that had been in talks to purchase the mall decided against the sale, the mall was pulled out of the auction.

In March of 2012 Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton told the Star Telegram that the city would like to attract manufacturing or warehouse to the Six Flags Mall site, squashing some of the hope for redevelopment of the mall’s current structure.

Now, Italia Express, a fast-food Italian spot in the food court is the only tenant in the mall. The Dillard’s Clearance outlet and the Cinemark theater that both operate are stand-alone sites owned by other companies. The rest of mall has been empty since 2011.

For now, the future of Six Flags Mall remains in the hands of creditors ready to auction off the 42-year-old ghost town.



Photo Credit: Theresa Wilcox, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Inside Six Flags Mall]]> Mon, 23 Apr 2012 10:56:50 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Six-Flags-Mall-001.jpg Photos from the inside of Six Flags Mall.

Photo Credit: Theresa Wilcox, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[High School Area to be Redeveloped]]> Mon, 23 Apr 2012 12:04:30 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas-high-school-crozier-tech-722.jpg

UPDATE: Find additional details about the current condition of this building at the bottom of this story. The following is the story we first published in 2009.

Despite high volumes of traffic in the area, it goes mostly unnoticed by the average passerby.

Located at 2214 Bryan Street--just across the street from the DART station at Bryan and Pearl--the main building of the old Dallas High School sits vacant, awaiting an unknown fate that has been a hot topic of discussion ever since the school's closure in 1995.  Not only is it the oldest standing high school in Dallas, Dallas High School is one of the oldest and last remaining historic buildings in Dallas.

Built in 1907 with an addition in 1911, the 3.5-story structure we see today was once a classroom and auditorium building that housed many generations of Dallas students. 

"Dallas High School" was only known as such for a few years, as its often referred to by its most notable alter ego, "Crozier Technical High School" (it held that name from 1942-1975).  Other names it went by include Main High School, Bryan Street High School, Dallas Tech High School and lastly, Business and Management Magnet Center.

Among other things, the school had a state-of-the-art machine shop. Students at schools with machine shop capabilities in the 40's were known for producing knives for their troops, and Crozier Tech was among them.  There is said to be at least 1,000 knives produced from Crozier Tech bearing a "Tech High" engraving on the blade. 

During the racial segregation of the 1950s, Crozier Tech also became the designated school for white students removed from the Forest Avenue High School after Forest High was designated for colored students and renamed James Madison High School.

Famous Chicano singer and and guitarist Trini Lopez is among the notable alumni of Crozier Tech after having attended in the 1960s. 

The 5.4-acre lot was once a five-building campus, but the other four have since been demolished -- the building we still see today remains thanks to a Dallas city ordinance.  While the ordinance provides legal protection from the wrecking ball, it was the also the work of historians, preservationists and school alumni that have raised awareness about the one of Dallas' most remarkable historic sites.

Crozier Tech became a city-designated historic landmark in 2000.  Preservation Texas added the old Dallas High School to its Inaugural List of "Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places" in 2004, also making their list of "Most Endangered Resoucres" just last year.  The National Register of Historic Places has also listed the school under the Dallas High School Historic District. 

Also known for its strong and active alumni base, Crozier Tech has many former "Wolves" involved in the fight to preserve their alma mater.  The school has sparked numerous articles in the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park Blog and the Dallas Morning News, in addition to others.

As the fate of the Old Dallas High remains unknown, we shall continue to view it simply as a shell of our city...until the city of Dallas gives us further notice.


Update April 2012: The boarded-up old Dallas High School on Pearl St. may not be a shell for much longer.

The property is in the process of changing hands to Dallas-based developer Wynne/Jackson.

Michael Jackson, vice president of the company, has plenty of reasons to be interested in the site.

"We like the site. My dad's father went to school there, and we drive by it every day. Since my dad built Plaza, he's been driving past it since the '70s and has been trying to figure out what to do with it," Jackson told Unfair Park.

Jackson's father, Clyde Jackson, built the Plaza of the Americas -- right across the street from the high school and the DART station that sits outside.

The developers say their plans include an adaptive reuse of the original building, retail space, and some housing options. All of it is contingent on the deal actually going through and the permit process of building in and around the historical landmark.



Photo Credit: Kristy Chu, NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: Dallas High/Crozier Tech]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:11:40 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/DSC_1355.JPG Built in 1907 as Dallas High School, the remaining building of once was Crozier Tech now faces an uncertain future.

Photo Credit: Kristy Chu, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Historic Stockyards Building to Be Demolished]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:09:25 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/armor-building-stockyards.jpg

Some changes are ahead for a century-old property on the eastern edge of the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Chesapeake Energy said it has hired a company to demolish the old Armour Meat Packing Plant and sell the property to be developed. Chesapeake originally purchased the property for a well site, but has two other facilities that can reach minerals near the Stockyards.

The plant has a huge cultural and historical significance, as it was the economic driver of the Stockyards for decades before closing in the early 1960s.

The plant opened in 1902, but the building has seen better days. Chesapeake said some of the brick is turning to sand, and the building may no longer be structurally sound.

"I'm not an architect, but I can see structural issues," said Tom Wiederhold, president of the North Fort Worth Historical Society.

Wiederhold toured the plant last week with Chesapeake officials and agrees it would be too cost prohibitive to redevelop.

"So much history with the cattle industry and livestock industry," said Hub Baker, manager of the Cowtown Coliseum. "It's a shame we can't preserve it, take every brick down and put it right back."

While no one in the Stockyards wants to see the plant go, they all recognize the potential economic growth in what might replace it.

"Bringing it (the Stockyards) out, expanding isn't just good for the Stockyards, but North Fort Worth and the city of Fort Worth and the tourism industry," Wiederhold said.

And those who already make their living in the Stockyards said they'll welcome anything as long as it fits in with the atmosphere already cultivated there.

"Anything that brings people in, hotels, restaurants, a convention center," Baker said.

There is no set date for the demolition, but Chesapeake said it will happen soon unless someone makes an offer to save the building. But with that being an unlikely option, local leaders look to make something out of the historic loss.

"It has to be looked at positively. We can't sit here and be negative about something that we have no control over," Wiederhold said.

Chesapeake said the building and land has been for sale for some time now. The company is hosting a luncheon on Thursday called "Honoring the Past and Envisioning the Future" for anyone on the city's northside.

While the Armour plant is set to be torn down, the Swift plant buildings' future is still up in the air. That property is owned by another company and only two of those buildings may be salvaged according to Wiederhold. Part of that property, he said, is part of the Trinity River project.

Read more about the Swift building in this piece in our Shells of Our City feature.

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<![CDATA[Shells of Our City: West End Marketplace]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:56 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/179*120/wem-081709-0+%2812%29.jpg

We had to tell half a dozen people the West End Marketplace had closed, just while we photographed the exteriors for this feature. There are no chain link fences, boarded windows, or "no trespassing" signs. Instead, the building looms like a sleeping giant, ready to awaken in a new era.

People still take their photo in front of the jovial dragon that sits in front of what was Planet Hollywood. After the restaurant closed -- on September 11, 2001 -- the signage went away, but the dragon stayed behind. The Starlight Room, a special events venue, now occupies the Planet Hollywood space -- and it's the only tenant in the complex. The Marketplace closed down officially in June of 2006. For the last few years, the building has been over 50% vacant.

The exterior shows minor vandalism -- someone colored Elvis' eyes red and dust covered windows have a few obscene messages -- leading our expectations to believe the interior would be worse.

We were wrong.

Comprised of what was, at one time, three separate structures, the interior of the building looks surprisingly well maintained. The support structures remain, and many of the unique elements -- like ovens from when the buildings were owned by the Sunshine Biscuit company -- are still there. The character of the building remains, though the shops and cinemas have been removed.

We toured the building with Tom Persch, Chairman of the West End Association, and a Vice President for Ecom Real Estate -- the group that manages the building. Accent lighting still functioned in the lower levels; we even used the escalators to get to the top of the two four-story wooden buildings that made up the shopping areas. These structures were combined with a seven-story concrete building that eventually held the ten screen cinema.

The first floor was home to many Dallas Alley nightclubs including Paragon and Bobby Sox; Froggy Bottoms sat in the basement level. Completing the entertainment options was Tilt, a massive arcade that took over most of the bottom floor.

Since the closing of the Marketplace, Ecom has maintained the building, all the while trying to find the next tenants for the massive space. They've come close several times before; Persch tells us the Savannah College of Art and Design were in deep negotiations to open a branch in the building, taking over more than just the Marketplace.

"It's just a matter of time until the right tenant comes along," Persch says.

Foot traffic is still a big deal for the location -- folks walking to and from Victory Park through the West End pass under the neon arches of the Dallas Alley, which bridges to a connecting route under Woodall Rodgers. Traveling through that route gets visitors to the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe, the House of Blues, and eventually down to the American Airlines Center.

But most don't get that far. We saw many pedestrians head into the Alley, and, minutes later, turn back the way they came. With the constant stream of foot traffic -- including folks still looking for things to do in the West End -- what finally killed the Marketplace?

Persch thinks it was a combination of economic transitions, retail and entertainment fragmentation, and 9/11 -- when the convention center business seemed to drop significantly. Tourists and other visitors had routinely been the Marketplace's bread and butter, coming for the unique Texas style just down the street from Dealey Plaza. This "encapsulated" market, as Persch termed it, still helps the rest of the West End District, but the fragmentation of independent retailers to suburban "main street" concepts and even entertainment options "closer to home" have made many weekend nights quieter than a decade ago.

Persch and others in the West End are optimistic. "The West End is still thriving. The Marketplace may have closed, but look..." he gestures down the street toward the DART light rail station on Pacific Ave, "the rest is still here."

It's only a matter of time before the neon arches of Dallas Alley and the West End Marketplace net tenants that can awake the sleeping giant in a new era.



Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: West End Marketplace]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:13:14 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/179*120/wem-081709-0+%2817%29.jpg We go inside the West End Marketplace to see what's changed since the building's shutdown -- and what hasn't.

Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Shells of Our City: Baker Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:56 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/metapth13081.jpg

Like Sleeping Beauty awaiting a kiss from Prince Charming, the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells waits patiently for her prince. A bustling resort and spa for more than three decades, this beautiful building now lays vacant, and quietly nestled in the hills of Palo Pinto County. The rural town's history is an important piece of the hotel's history as well. Without the "healing mineral water" the community was known for in the late 1800's, the grand hotel may have never been built.

While he and his wife suffered from rheumatism, James Alvis Lynch found that drinking the water with a "funny taste" made them feel better. A well driller named Providence had drilled a water well for the Lynch's in 1880, tapping into the nearest water source which was four miles away; the Brazos River. It didn't take long for word of the healing water to spread. By the thousands, neighbors and strangers alike began frequenting the Lynch's home daily, searching for a sip. With the influx of people, Lynch officially established the town of Mineral Wells and appointed himself as its first mayor in the fall of 1881.

With the town established, many more water wells were soon drilled. The most famous is the Crazy Well. As legend has it, a demented woman drank from the well twice a day and overcame her illness. Some believe the story could have truth to it, as the water contained a significant amount of lithium which is now used to treat mental and mood disorders. The news of the Crazy Water from Crazy Well only added to the excitement of visiting Mineral Wells and drinking the wondrous water. Trains began shuffling people in and out by the thousands, and tourists from around the world came to see what the water had to offer. It quickly became clear; a major hotel would be a great way to cash-in on the healing water hype.

Mr. T.M. Baker, hotel entrepreneur, seized this opportunity.

At a cost of $1.2 million, Mr. Baker modeled his Mineral Wells facility after the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The majestic Baker Hotel stands14 floors high and houses 450 rooms. The hotel boasted three dancing areas, a gymnasium, bowling alley, bar, doctor's office, and beauty parlor, not to mention a 117 acre golf course. This resort and spa was undoubtedly the premier facility of its time.  A glamorous gala was held as the Grand Lady of Mineral Wells opened her doors for the first time. Imagine the 1997 cinematic depiction of the Titanic with Kate and Leo -- the elegant ballrooms, the corset dresses, the hats and the perfectly coiffed hair, the lavish decor of early twentieth century. The scene at the Baker Hotel on November 22, 1929 was no doubt just as magnificent.

The Depression didn't seem to phase activity at the hotel in the least. Patrons came and went by thousands for three decades. Celebrities seemed to especially enjoy The Baker. Judy Garland, Will Rogers, The Three Stooges, Lord Mountbatten, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Elliott Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Helen Keller, Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers and the famous World War II hero, Audie Murphy were all spotted at the Hotel at one time or another. Nightly entertainers like Herby Kay, Paul Whiteman and Lawrence Welk drew crowds from around the country and the world.

Fort Wolters opened October 13, 1940 and grew to be the largest infantry replacement training center in the country with a population of 30,000 men. The Baker peaked during this decade as it catered to civilians and military personnel alike. However, the end of WW II and the closing of Ft. Wolters marked a period of significant decline for The Baker. Its popularity was revived briefly in 1951 when Ft. Wolters was reactivated as an army installation with a mission of helicopter personnel training.

In 1952, Mr. Baker - childless and now aging - passed the hotel to a nephew, Earl M. Baker. Though nephew Baker was an experienced hotel businessman, the landscape began to change. Medical advances during the war resulted in the creation of antibiotics likes sulfa drugs and penicillin. Doctors who once recommended the healing waters of Mineral Wells began turning away from this practice in favor of advanced medicine. Baker soon realized that he needed a new approach to marketing his hotel. He began booking small conventions and non-medicinal vacation packages in order to keep The Baker alive. The Democratic State Convention was held at the Hotel several times, as well as the 1952 Republican State Convention. The 1950's were about catering to the over-worked, stressed-out executives. 

 Earl Baker operated the hotel remotely from San Antonio through the 1960's. He vowed to keep the hotel through his 70th birthday on April 30, 1963. One month and one day after his 70th birthday, Baker closed the hotel on May 31, 1963, ending 34 years of active use serving over 2 million guests. The closing of The Baker was truly the end of an era for Mineral Wells. Social lives were stifled as business leaders could no longer relax in luxury at their morning coffee break or at lunch, and more than 200 people were left jobless. The Hotel was put up for auction at a public sale in August, 1963 but there were no buyers. Finally in 1965 a group of local Mineral Wells leaders formed The Civic Development Corporation and reopened the Hotel once again. Profits were slim and the hotel remained open for only two and a half years. The Civic Development Corporation sold the Hotel to the Home Texas Trust, James Stewart and the United Funding Corporation in 1972, the same year that the original owner, Mr. T.M. Baker, died at the age of 96.

While there have been several attempts to reopen, The Baker Hotel has now been vacant longer than it spent thriving. However, there is hope on the horizon. The property is still for sale and the Times Industrial Partnership is the current Managing Director and owner of the property. Hunter Chase Capital Partners has taken on the task of conducting all pre-development feasibility work. They have retained PKF, a large, international hospitality consultant; partnered with LaCorsha Management as the pre-development partner and future operator; and partnered with Thiel and Thiel of Southlake to provide all of the architectural and design work. According to Hunter Chase, there has been a tremendous amount of interest over the years, but the significant size of the structure and age make it difficult for buyers to bite.

Ultimately, the goal is to deliver a 4-star, full-service hotel with a destination spa retreat experience. Should plans proceed as Hunter Chase hopes, the vision includes a hotel capable of accommodating a variety of patrons, from the corporate meetings, to wedding receptions, to major group events. Hunter Chase believes if they are able to secure new market tax credits, historical tax credits, the TIF support and a USDA loan guarantee, "the project has the ability to come to life."

We certainly hope all of the pieces come together so that someone can awaken the sleeping princess, the Grand Lady of Mineral Wells - - The Baker Hotel.



Photo Credit: Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: The Baker Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:12:22 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/metapth13076.jpg In the heart of Mineral Wells, the historic Baker Hotel waits for the day it can return to glory.

Photo Credit: Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas]]>
<![CDATA[Shells of Our City: Swift and Company Packing Plant]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/179*120/swift_081909_B.jpg

There are no public tours of the abandoned Swift and Company meatpacking plant. The ruins sit east of the bustling Fort Worth Stockyards, behind tall chain link fences and more than a few "No Trespassing" signs. A kindly security guard, Hugh Gibson, sits at the entrance to the neighboring Armour plant, still accessible from Niles City Blvd. He peers out from under his straw cowboy hat on a Saturday morning to answer questions from passersby. His jurisdiction, he says, is the Armour plant. As for the property beyond it, he says, he is to alert the main Fort Worth Stockyards security if he sees anyone snooping around unannounced.

Some folks have obviously made it in. The Swift and Company plant's ruins are covered in graffiti with the word LOVE tagged in white near the top of the main structure. Photographers from around the state attracted to the building marvel at how perfectly "bombed-out" it looks and wonder in the captions on their Flickr sites what will become of the remains. The TV series "Prison Break" built a Panama prison set on the property and filmed there, but Hollywood has left, too.

The stubbornness that cemented Fort Worth as a king of cattle commerce is entombed in the singed remains of the meatpacking plant small investors helped secure in good faith at the turn of the twentieth century. After the empty plant was ravaged by two fires in the '70s, demolition trucks have come to knock down what's left. But the wrecking balls only took a chunk of the relic. Swift's steel-strong design makes it more expensive to demolish the proud main structure than to let it occupy the land, so it stays, looming over the historic entertainment district as it has since the fires came.

"See old Swift, when he built it, he built it better than any bank you've ever seen," says Steve Murrin, who owns the River Ranch property nearby. The place used to be known as a barn party space; well before that, it was the boneyard for the Swift plant.

Murrin, a former Fort Worth city councilman, says his father and grandfather were among the Fort Worth businessmen who pitched in and bought the land and donated it, half to the Swift company and half to Armour, strictly for enterprise. Then Swift partnered with the owner of Fort Worth Union Stockyards, a moneyed Yankee named Greenlief W. Simpson, to open the Swift and Company plant in March of 1904. Historian J'Nell L. Pate wrote that the recruitment of the Swift and Armour plants “saved the stockyards from failure” as the institution limped along after the financial panic in the late 1800s. The city's population tripled during the ten years after Armour and Swift arrived in what was then called North Fort Worth.

Besides the ready selection of cattle available at the adjacent stockyards, the Swift plant was elite in that time because of its modern design, Murrin says. Gustavus Swift, the founder of Swift and Company, invented the refrigerated railcar, and his highly insulated plants were advanced as compared to other facilities. Double brick walls on the upper floors of the packing house ensured the meat would stay fresh throughout the first steps of processing.

The operation was organized top-to-bottom: the slaughterhouse part of the plant was on the fourth floor. Cattle were led up an outside ramp to meet their demise.

"They went in as cows and came out as packaged meat at the bottom," Murrin says.

Long treks between Texas ranches and Fort Worth coupled with the boom of the trucking industry and the rising preference of the consumer for special cuts of beef caused a drop in demand for Swift's factory-style operation. Murrin likens Swift and Company's style of processing and packing to the old Ford quip that a customer can have a car painted in any color he wants, as long as it's black. Take it or leave it, the meat was cut and packaged with efficiency being the main concern.

The plant held on longer than the Armour plant, which closed in 1962. The Swift Fort Worth plant shut down in 1971. Two fires in the next few years would ravage the plant, save the administrative offices. XTO owns the admin offices across the street -- the building stands out for it's wraparound porch.

According to the Tarrant Appraisal District's records, Hickman Investments, Inc. owns the property on which the Swift ruins lie. That company is owned by developer and investor Holt Hickman, who owns many high-dollar commercial and residential properties in Fort Worth. A representative from the company did not return calls at press time.

During the year he's worked in the Armour security post, Gibson says he hasn't met anyone with direct ties to the plant except for an elderly man who used to work at Swift. Gibson says he once found a brick with the date July 7, 1907 written on it. And there was something else – about a year ago, he came to work and saw a fire burning in the center of the Swift property. It seemed to have started down in a hole. It took firefighters almost all day to take care of the blaze.

What else would fit on the hill where the Swift ruins now stand? Murrin says there's been talk of cheap apartments before. That would have been horrible, he says. Murrin is a preservationist, but so is Hickman, an Exchange Club Golden Deeds Award winner and a Stockyards mainstay. No one we spoke to could say how much longer the remains of the Swift and Company plant would dangle at the edge of the Stockyards, but for now, what's left will continue to invite questions from visitors.



Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: Swift and Company in the Old Days]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:21:14 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/swiftpostcard23.jpg See the Fort Worth Swift and Company meatpacking plant as it was in its heyday.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the North Fort Worth Historical Society]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: Swift and Company Packing Plant]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:14:49 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/179*120/swift_081909_G.jpg Once an efficient savior of the Stockyards, the Swift and Company meatpacking plant now sits as burned out ruins looming over the historic entertainment district.

Photo Credit: Greg Janda, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Shells of Our City: Statler Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/240*120/Statler+Hilton+1+Point.jpg

It’s hard not to notice the former Statler Hilton Hotel (last operated as the Dallas Grand) when driving east on Commerce in downtown Dallas. The Y-shaped building is a mammoth archetype of midcentury-modern architecture. Its flat-slab structural system, the first full application of its kind, was cutting edge in 1956, but now … well, it’s looking a little slumped.

It’s a vacant reminder of a time when the economy was booming -- a building that many people don’t want to see demolished. However, it costs money -- a lot of money -- to fix the structural issues that have resulted from its sub-grade (below street level) water problem. But who is legally responsible for its fate? The owners who keep getting ticketed by the city despite efforts to stay up to code, or the city?

Attorney for the company (a subsidiary of a publicly held fund based in China) that owns the hotel, Tom Keen denies that they have ever been approached by any buyers who expressed intentions to demolish the Statler Hotel. But that wasn’t always the case.

Spared from demolition in 2003, the Statler Hotel was designed by New York architect William Tabler, who designed more than 400 hotels before his death in 2004. He designed the 376-room New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, 333 Adams Street in Brooklyn, which opened in 1998, and the 714-room Grand Hyatt Cairo, which opened in 2000. Tabler designed Hilton hotels in Baltimore, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Paul; Statler hotels in Dallas and Hartford; and InterContinental hotels worldwide. Three of his most notable manifestations of his clean style are New York Hilton near Rockefeller Center, the 12-story Washington Hilton overlooking Connecticut Avenue and the 1,200-room Hilton in San Francisco, built near Union Square in 1964.

As historic as it is neglected, the 20-story Statler Hotel still stands, made from steel and glass that required material orders clearance from the War Production Authority in Washington.

“Its existence is iconic. The post WWII period really was Dallas’ coming out time architecturally and even socially. The Statler so excellently captures all of that, having used the same old building materials in such a different way than was ever used before. It’s bold and exuberant with its blue porcelain panels,” said Katherine Seale, director of Preservation Dallas… her voice trailing off quietly.

Whether or not post-modern American architecture is “your thing”,  the general consensus is that the hotel should stay.

“I like the free form and the coloration of it. I love its strategic location and just the exterior skin of it,” said developer Larry Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Properties Corporation.

He took a run at the Statler Hotel a few years ago, but didn’t receive a response from the owners at the time. He later denied an offer to invest in the hotel because he wasn’t sure of a successful pay off at the price it would cost to take part. Despite the Statler Hotel not taking up space on Hamilton’s impressive real estate roster (Dallas Power Light Building, Mosaic and the Davis Building) Hamilton’s speaks with conviction as hard as concrete about the its importance.

“It’s worth an awful lot to downtown Dallas. The strength of downtown is its representation of this beautiful pastiche of architectural history. We have all these different buildings built at different time periods. You can’t re-create the urban fabric that already exists so why try?” said Hamilton.

And so it sits on the market, collecting pigeon droppings and emitting a musty odor that smells like the inside of a house having an estate sale.

“The owners absolutely still want to sell. This is the only property they own and they’re primarily focused on development deals overseas in China,” said Keen.

Thus, for obvious, albeit fiscal reasons, the current owners said they prefer to sell to a company that doesn’t plan to demolish the hotel -- that would lower the selling price. For now, as the economy continues to languish like the soft water stains on its faded façade, the Statler Hotel remains on the The National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“Buildings from the late ‘50s are generally recognized by architects, but it’s not common for the general public to have awareness about them. Now the Statler is gaining popularity ever since it was put on the endangered list,” said Seale.

But Keen insists the current owners are doing more than just trying to get the lights turned on since Mayor Tom Leppert and other city officials announced the city’s Downtown Vacant Buildings Initiative last year.

“We’ve been trying to comply with the city’s ordinances all year doing clean up and minor prep work,” said Keen.

THE THREE ‘P’S

The Statler Hotel’s fate is most affected by parking, politics and a park. The hotel’s parking lot across the street from it was demolished to clear the way for Main Street Park. According to Seale, former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller made a deal with Forest City, forcing a tight deadline making it impossible to build underground parking (for the Statler Hotel) in time. It takes a pretty penny to build underground parking, especially in such ugly economic times, and street level parking lots are cash cows for the city.

“I’m skeptical of anyone with blue skies expectations’ because if it were demolished and became a surface parking ad interim, well it would just sit there for a very long time as the powers that be decided what to do. And surface parking lots can last just as long as buildings do,” Hamilton says.

The ramifications of demolishing the hotel will adversely affect Main Street Park. Imagine Central Park, on a much smaller scale but without the buildings that create that proverbial “concrete jungle” that encapsulates the park. There goes your escape from the city within the city, and you’re just hanging out in the burbs or some other hood with nothing really going on. There’s energy to any city and parks can either invigorate or interrupt it.

“It’s especially important to keep the Statler Hotel in regard to Main Street Park. You need a visual edge to maintain the beauty of an urban park. One of the most dramatic things about Main Street Park is that buildings surround it. Take away the Statler, put in a parking lot -- and the edge will just bleed off. Parks in the city can easily become no man’s land and mess up the continuity of the city’s architectural flow,” Hamilton agrees.

Ultimately it all comes down to flow -- as in cash. The Statler’s uncertain future and storied past reminds us of a wayward friend who has fallen upon hard times. Everyone has one, a really cool friend who talks about how great things were ‘back in the day’. You’re compelled to clean them up to help them stand on their own again. Thus, your friend becomes an investment … a project, one worth saving if you can afford it. Hopefully, the powers that be can reach a decision merging the preservation of this iconic building that will benefit the city as well. The possibilities with such a grand space are limitless.

“Why not re-create some portion of it and call it the ‘Hotel Retro?” Hamilton muses.

That’s one idea worth keeping right there.



Photo Credit: Steve Clicque]]>
<![CDATA[Gallery: The Statler Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:40 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/181*120/stat+back.jpg For the Statler Hilton Hotel the threat of demolition still hovers like a dark cloud over this shining example of mid-century modern American architecture.

Photo Credit: kelly williams]]>
<![CDATA[Shells of Our City: One Year Later]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/081809-dfw-shell.jpg

Last August, we featured five buildings in and around the Metroplex that have been left vacant, abandoned, or simply overlooked. Now, one year later, how have these sites changed? Read on to see what's next for the Shells of Our City.

The Baker Hotel - Mineral Wells
(Read our original feature | See photos)
The former bustling resort and perennial favorite for redevelopment rumors seems to have a steward to help the hotel return to its former glory. Jeff Trigger, former managing director at The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the man behind the renovation of the Stoneleigh Hotel, is now in charge of a redevelopment project funded by Hunter Chase Private Equity, who told us during our feature last year that they were working on the project. Currently, the time table for the project is around two years.

West End Marketplace - Dallas
(Read our original feature | See photos)
There have definitely been more bodies in the West End Marketplace since our last check-in -- many of them lacking life. The BODIES exhibition was installed in November of 2009, but by the end of August, the Marketplace will once again be empty. That doesn't mean it'll stay that way for long -- Downtown Dallas 360's latest plan included focusing some development effort to help revitalize the marketplace.

Statler Hilton Hotel - Dallas
(Read our original feature | See photos)
The familiar face on Preservation Dallas' list of endangered buildings is no better off this year than last. Seemingly nothing has changed about the building, other than gaining another year of dirt. The site overlooks the now-completed Main Street Park and has been noticed by the Downtown Dallas groups as being a significant site for redevelopment, but, yet again, the size and cost of the project seem to be standing in the way of a new life for the building.

Crozier Tech/Old Dallas High School - Dallas
(Read our original feature | See photos)
Directly across from the Pearl Street DART station, Crozier Tech still sits mired in development limbo. Preservationists won the battle to claim the school as a historic site, though developers fought that in court, claiming it would hurt the chances of finding someone willing to redevelop the building without changing the exterior. According to a DMN story in March of this year, plans are being formed to update the space, though the interested parties have all been silent and off-the-record thus far.

Swift and Company Meat Packing Plant - Fort Worth
(Read our original feature | See photos)
We've heard nothing about this property since our feature -- even our calls into contacts were never returned. Although the Stockyards are still attracting folks to the area, it doesn't seem that expansion into the area that the ruins stand on is on any developer's list. For now, it seems the ruins are doomed to collect graffiti before they eventually crumble.

As we continue to keep an eye on these Shells of Our City, we're noticing more buildings stuck in the battle between the past and future. Expect more news on these and other properties in the future.



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Saving the Statler Hilton Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/030211statlerhotel_722x406.jpg Dallas city leaders are thrilled about plans to save the historic Statler Hilton Hotel, and restore it to its former glory.]]> <![CDATA[New Owners May Restore Former Statler Hilton]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap2011060618h20m35s102_722x406_1974627322.jpg There's plenty of talk about what will become of the former Statler Hotel in downtown Dallas. Now, according to city leaders, the Statler's new owners may restore the hotel to its former glory days as one of the city's swankiest hotels.]]> <![CDATA[Big Promises for Statler Hotel]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/030211statlerhotel_722x406.jpg

The new owners of the long decaying Statler Hilton Hotel are promising to make Dallas proud of the landmark building again.

"We feel kind of a responsibility to bring it back and do what it did back in the '50s," said Leo Trevino of Ricchi Dallas Investments. "This building to us personally was like the heartbeat of downtown."

Company representatives received cheers from Dallas city leaders at a press conference in front of the hotel Tuesday.

"One of the major hurdles to progress has now today been cleared," Interim Mayor Dwaine Caraway said.

Ricchi Dallas Investments spent more than $17 million to buy the old hotel and the former Dallas Downtown Library building connected to it on Commerce Street between Harwood and St. Paul streets.

The hotel has been vacant for 10 years, and city officials accused the prior owners of neglect for allowing dangerous code violations and refusing to make substantial repairs.

After Tuesday’s press conference, reporters and city officials were allowed to tour the lobby, mezzanine and banquet halls.

The place is still filled with old serving equipment and furniture that brings back memories.

"My uncle on my mom's side worked here for many, many years," Dallas Councilwoman Pauline Medrano said.

"I can remember so many great functions and events and conventions," Caraway said.

The vacant hotel sits on the south side of the new Main Street Garden Park.

"Especially with this new park here, it's been such an eyesore for so many years," said downtown resident Joel Aguillar as he and his wife played with their young child in the park.

The other three sides of the park include the renovated Merchantile Bank Building, which is now upscale apartments, a former department store that is now a downtown campus for several universities and the Old City Hall building, which will soon become the UNT Law School.

The abandoned hotel was the subject of controversy for years as Dallas pushed to see progress at the Statler Hilton site, according to Councilman Ron Natinsky, who was involved in city negotiations.

"These people said 'tear it down.' These people said, 'Oh, don't touch it. It's got a great façade. It's got a great history,'" Natinsky said.

Final plans from the new owners are not complete but Trevino said the landmark façade will be preserved while the interior is completely renovated.

"We're going to do what's right for the building," Trevino said.

He said the finished product could include a combination of hotel rooms, apartments or condominiums and restaurants, retail and entertainment attractions.

Carrie Aguillar said residents are hoping for more retail stores and entertainment -- "more than just bars and hotels" -- that can attract people to downtown Dallas.

Leo Trevino said his company will seek city tax breaks like most other downtown projects have received. But he also said Ricchi Dallas Investments is making a substantial commitment of its own that other potential buyers have declined to make because he believes downtown Dallas is on the verge of a real estate boom.

"We believe that downtown is in a renaissance," he said.

Ricchi Dallas Investments is already working on the renovation of the former LTV Tower building at 1600 Pacific downtown, so city officials say they are confident the company will follow through on its promises for the Statler Hilton.



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Statler Hilton Could Have Guests Again]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/renovated-Statler-Hilton.jpg

The latest plans from new owners of the former Statler Hilton Hotel call for reopening the 55-year-old downtown Dallas building as a hotel.

The hotel was among the finest in the nation when it opened in 1956, but it was abandoned and has been decaying for the past 10 years.

The city of Dallas has rated it as a dangerous building in the past several years because of serious code violations.

In March, Ricchi Dallas Investments purchased the hotel building at 1914 Commerce St., along with the former Dallas Public Library building beside it at 1954 Commerce St.

The library closed in 1981.

On Monday, a Dallas City Council Committee received the latest plan to renovate and revive the buildings.

Architect Jerry Merriman said the hotel building is ideally suited to be a hotel again.

"We can still develop the ground floor for retail and restaurants and have some mixed use that way, but we think the real use is residential or hotel," he said.

Merriman said upper floor layouts are well suited for use as suite-type or efficiency hotel rooms that could serve a variety of people who work downtown.

The former library building would be renovated for street-level retail and other commercial uses.

The City Council Committee endorsed the plan Monday.

"I think there's a big difference between having the buildings in the state that they're in today versus having them remediated," Councilman Ron Natinsky said.

The owners want the city to help pay for expensive asbestos and mechanical problems that have scared other developers away.

"The fact that there is private money, substantial money going into it means somebody has faith that this is eventually going to become something," Councilwoman Ann Margolin said.

The abandoned hotel and library buildings are across Commerce Street from the city’s new Main Street Garden Park.

The park is also surrounded by the Merchantile Building, which was recently renovated with apartments, a former department store that now houses university classrooms and the old Dallas City Hall which is soon to become the University of North Texas Law School.

John Crawford, with Downtown Dallas Inc., said the Statler Hilton is a key to completing the area, "for three different reasons, perception, life safety, and appearance."

It makes a huge difference in terms of what we're doing downtown," he said.

Other plans for the Statler Hilton suggested over the years have included condominiums or an entertainment center with theaters and maybe bowling.

But Merriman said the city-backed Convention Center hotel opening later this year would help attract convention business to Dallas and boost the need for additional hotel rooms elsewhere downtown.

"The interest from hotel operators and various flags that operate around the country has been very high, so we think that a lot of operators are seeing the potential of Downtown Dallas," Merriman said.

The full Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on the hotel plan June 22.



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[New Plans for Dallas High School]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:10:39 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/DallasHS030512_722x406_2206064373.jpg There's a new plan for 105-year-old Dallas High School, also known as Crozier Tech. A developer wants to renovate the long abandoned building as part of a campus of new apartments at Bryan and Pearl Streets in Dallas.]]> <![CDATA[Dallas Expands Dangerous Building Crackdown]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/219*120/dallas-skyline-0415.jpg

A year-old crackdown on dangerous downtown Dallas buildings has produced results and is expanding according to city leaders.

“All of a sudden, people saw that they couldn’t just leave a vacant building sitting there,” said Mayor Tom Leppert.  “All of a sudden, there was going to be a cost attached to it.”

The crackdown began in the fall of 2008 with 7 structures that had a history of serious building and fire code violations.  The city threatens lawsuits and large fines for owners who do not voluntarily comply with city rules.

“Our goal is to work with the property owners to get them up to code, get the properties up to code, not to cost them fines and penalties, but rather to encourage compliance,” said City Attorney Tom Perkins.

Among the initial seven was the abandoned Statler Hilton Hotel at 1902 Commerce Street. It was still filled with furniture.  Inspectors said the water system in the building was insufficient for firefighting.

Now officials say the basic safety code violations have been solved and the current building owners are in conversations with the city about a total renovation for residential development.

“I think that’s a good example of trying to bring people to the table to see some good things happen to the downtown,” said Mayor Leppert.

Six new buildings being added to the crack down include an old commercial structure at 807 Elm Street.

“I think it looks pretty dangerous,” said Johnny Johnson as he passed the building Tuesday. “I think if they’re trying to rejuvenate downtown, fixing up all the surrounding buildings is a big part of that.”

Get More:
Vacant Buildings Release - Phase II 
Downtown Vacant Buildings-Results  Phase 2
 

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<![CDATA[Getting Closer to a Statler Revival]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:29:21 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/188*120/Statler+Hilton+Postcard-4.jpg

Looks like Main Street Garden's watchful guardian, the Statler Hilton, may be back on track for a revival.

We love the place -- and featured it in our Shells of the City piece -- and are excited about recent reports (like this one in the DMN) about a joint venture with the City of Dallas to revitalize the empty icon. But Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky seems to think we should hold our horses a little bit; the owners of the building aren't as far along with feasibility studies as the City thinks.

In fact, this particular project has been a long time coming...and never really amounted to much more than a paper "facade" to hide the bare interior from new visitors to the Main Street Garden. The building is currently owned by overseas investors, who, at our last report, wanted to get the Statler off their books. They started planning for a rehab of the building back in the '90s, and now, decades later, may be on that track again.

"There has been a shift in responsibility over [the Statler] that has come with what we view as very positive conceptual ideas with what they would do," Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert told the DMN

Let's hope this venture doesn't delay in reviving the building-- but let's also make sure the citizens of Dallas don't own two hotels.

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<![CDATA[Arts South Coming Into Focus in Dallas]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:10:39 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/arts-south-model-041311.jpg

An area of mostly vacant land on the eastern edge of downtown Dallas is the location for an entire neighborhood soon to move off the drawing board.

The Downtown 360 plan approved by the City Council on Wednesday calls the neighborhood "Arts South."

It lies between a Dallas Area Rapid Transit Pearl Station and the Dallas Arts District west of the Central Expressway.

Developer Spire Realty has quietly acquired about 13 acres of parking lots and small buildings there for a project it calls The Spire.

"We're really not building an office building or a residential building. We're building a neighborhood," said Jon Ruff, a Spire executive.

Plans call for shops and restaurants located at the street level of high-rise buildings, which would include office and residential space above.

Artwork and a model of the neighborhood show wide sidewalks along a privately constructed street with lush landscaping that would provide a pedestrian path between the DART station and the Arts District.

"We intend to be a vehicle for people to get from this station up into the Arts District, through this park-like atmosphere," Ruff said.

Spire is recruiting a lead tenant, hoping to break ground on the first building in the development early next year.

Additional buildings would follow over a period of several years.

The Downtown 360 plan includes a long list of strategies to revitalize the center of Dallas, divided into several sections of the downtown core.

It was drafted for the city in cooperation with a property owners group called Downtown Dallas Inc.

The group’s leader, John Crawford, said officials hope projects such as The Spire would help attract more visitors downtown.

"Not only do we want them to just come down for one time and turn around and go back, we want them to come back and come back again," Crawford said.

The Arts South area in the 360 plan also includes the old Crozier Tech High School, a historic building near the Pearl Station that has been abandoned for years but is protected from demolition by the city.

Crawford said there is also new interest in a mixed-use development including that iconic building.

"There's a number of people actually talking about doing it," Crawford said.

Passengers at the DART station said they welcomed the changes.

"It's a little bit vacant, somewhat of an eyesore, what I see now," said Waylon Oliver.

"This is the Arts District, so we need as much attention for downtown as we possibly can get," he said.

More: Click here to see the entire Downtown 360 plan



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[New Owners For Statler Hilton]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:09:25 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/188*120/Statler+Hilton+Postcard-4.jpg

Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Observer just posted the news -- the long-vacant Statler Hilton in Downtown Dallas has new owners.

According to documents in the Dallas County property records, the building was sold to the San Antonio-based Ricchi Investment Group for $13.1 million. In addition, the group bought the neighboring site of the former Dallas Public Library for $4.4 million.

The Ricchi Group is also turning the old LTV Tower (1600 Pacific) into the Grand Ricchi Dallas.

Leobardo Trevino, the head of the investment group, told the Dallas Observer the first order of business is to clean up the space.

"But right now," he says, "the plans are to clean it up and restore the exterior and make it nice. We'll gut it and take it down to the concrete like we did with 1600 Pacific. But our plans are to restore it to the original and make it look like it did in 1956. We love the property. It took us seven months of negotiations, but we finally got it. We started work two weeks ago and can't wait to get it cleaned up and back and shape."

We're thrilled for the sale, since it means another of our Shells of Our City buildings is getting a new lease on life. We profiled the Statler Hilton back in August 2009.

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<![CDATA[Old Dallas High School is Under Contract]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:57 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/DSC_1377.JPG

The boarded-up old Dallas High School on Pearl St. may not be a shell of it's former self for much longer.

Also known as Crozier Tech, the school has sat unused for over a decade after being designated by the city as a historical landmark.

Now the property is in the process of changing hands to Dallas-based developer Wynne/Jackson.

Michael Jackson, vice president of the company, has plenty of reasons to be interested in the site.

"We like the site. My dad's father went to school there, and we drive by it every day. Since my dad built Plaza, he's been driving past it since the '70s and has been trying to figure out what to do with it," Jackson told Unfair Park.

Jackson's father, Clyde Jackson, built the Plaza of the Americas -- right across the street from the high school and the DART station that sits outside.

The developers say their plans include an adaptive reuse of the original building, retail space, and some housing options. All of it is contingent on the deal actually going through and the permit process of building in and around the historical landmark.

We previously profiled the old Dallas High School in our Shells of Our City series, which showcases vacant or abandoned buildings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.



Photo Credit: Kristy Chu, NBCDFW]]>
<![CDATA[Crozier Tech Hits the Market]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/081809-dfw-shell.jpg

The Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog reports the site of the former Dallas High School, later renamed Crozier Tech, is now on the market.

As posted on a commercial real estate website, the for sale property includes a 5.42 acre site in Downtown Dallas across from the Pearl Street DART station. The listing does mention the 1.13 acre site of the former Dallas High School as a protected historic district, but claims the remaining land can be redeveloped according to City of Dallas zoning rules.

Built in 1907 with an addition in 1911, the 3.5-story building has been on multiple lists of "Most Endangered" historical landmarks, most recently in 2010.

Nearly two years ago, NBCDFW posted a profile of the site in our Shells of Our City special feature. Click here to read that report and see photos of the site.



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>
<![CDATA[Plans Call for New Life at Crozier Tech]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Dallas-HS-DART-030512.jpg

The City Council will vote on a plan to revitalize a 105-year-old Dallas high school building.

A developer wants to renovate the long-abandoned Crozier Tech as part of a campus of new apartments at Bryan and Pearl streets.

A City Council committee endorsed 10 years of tax breaks for the developer.

"I just really wanted to go ahead and say thanks for this, hats off to you -- that's a very high visible area," Councilman Jerry Allen said.

Clyde Jackson, the developer, said it would be "a place where people can live and walk." He said the old building itself would have "some extraordinary internal amenities."

The high school was built in 1907, long before Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail came along. Seventeen years ago, it closed to students. Twelve years ago, City Hall imposed historic protection to save it from the wrecking ball.

"The architecture is old-fashioned," said Damarys Mercado, a DART passenger. "I'd hate to see it torn down, though."

Jackson said the school would look as it did in 1907 with a campus of new apartments around it.

A final City Council vote is scheduled next month, and the developer said dirt could fly this summer.

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff contributed to this report.


Previous Coverage:

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<![CDATA[Dallas' Most Endangered List Seems Familiar]]> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:08:54 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/081809-dfw-shell.jpg

On Wednesday, Preservation Dallas released their list of the most endangered buildings in Dallas. We weren't surprised by two selections, as they've been in our minds for almost a year.

In August 2009, we started a feature called "Shells of our City," which highlights the stories behind some of the vacant, abandoned, and history landmarks in the DFW area. Included were two structures that again made Preservation Dallas' list: Crozier Tech and the Statler Hilton.

Though it's been in the news since the time we profiled it, the Statler Hilton is in the same situation it was a year ago -- vacant and abandoned, with hopes high for it's revival, especially since it sits across the street from the new Main Street Park. Another listing in the most endangered group only highlights the stagnation on this landmark hotel. Read more about the hotel and see pictures here: Statler Hilton

Crozier Tech -- the original Dallas High School -- is similarly stagnant, facing concerns of demolition into a parking lot and only surviving due to a City of Dallas ordinance. Our profile of the school included photos shot right from the DART light rail station across from the boarded-up entrance. Read more about the school and see photos here: Crozier Tech

Other locations listed on this year's list included former DISD schools like Adamson High School, Oran M. Roberts School, and Davy Crockett School, plus the previously mentioned Crozier Tech. Multiple public libraries were also listed, including many branches that opened around 1964 (Casa View Branch, Hampton-Illinois Branch, and Lancaster-Kiest Branch). For the third year in a row, the Deep Ellum area was listed as endangered -- specifically because the are is under developmental pressure to tear down existing buildings and capitialize on the DART light rail lines leading to the area. Read the entire list here: 2010 Most Endangered Buildings



Photo Credit: NBCDFW.com]]>