Dallas County Records Building (Courtesy of Gensler)

Commercial Real Estate

$138 Million Dallas County Records Building Redo Marks First Year

The county is one year into a four-year project that will turn the three-building complex into one building.

From the outside, Dallasites may not realize that the Dallas County Records Building just east of Dealey Plaza is undergoing a $138 million renovation. One year into the redo, project designer Gensler has completed design development, and passersby will soon notice more outside activity as the three separate buildings become one.

The three-building complex includes a former jail, the namesake record building, and an annex. As part of the renovation, Gensler and contractor MB3 (a joint venture between Manhattan Construction Co., Thos. S. Byrne, and 3i Construction) will connect the buildings into one.

Each building has different floorplates, Gensler project director Brian Nicodemus says, and they did not originally touch. “That was one problem we had to figure out—how to make this building as flexible as possible and maximize the floorplate,” he said. Gensler will remove some upper floors and completely reinstall them so the new floorplates are level across all three structures.

In a move dubbed “re-coring the pineapple,” MB3 and Gensler will consolidate the buildings’ mechanical, data, and electrical infrastructures and elevators in a centralized spine. Upon its completion in March 2020, the Dallas County Records Building will be 320,000 square feet, about 40,000 more square feet than its current setup. Part if the increased square footage comes from the addition of a seventh floor that will be used for special events and will be open to the public.

Nicodemus said working in the historic structure has yielded some interesting artifacts. “The buildings bear the marks of segregation,” Nicodemus says. “Every week when we’re on site, we find objects that are like little time capsules.” All artifacts, including many “Whites Only” signs, doors, and water fountains, have been documented. Many will be displayed in a public museum on the ground floor once the project is completed.

The storied buildings also held inmates such as Jack Ruby and Clyde Barrow. Sarah Hughes, the federal judge who swore in Lyndon B. Johnson after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, also had a courtroom in the annex and became integral in upgrading conditions for prisoners in the Dallas County jail and around the U.S.

Gensler recently completed new renderings showing how the reimagined building will look.