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."