Dallas has a brand spanking new ordinance designed to help prevent the midnight demolition of the city’s historic buildings. The Dallas City Council passed a demolition delay ordinance which will force a mandatory review period after a developer files for a demolition permit that will allow the city to double check to make sure that the building is not, well, historic. Here’s how it will work, via the Dallas Wilonsky News report:
Per the ordinance, once a developer files a demolition permit, city staff will have 10 days to confirm whether it meets the “historic” criteria — that is, it’s at least 50 years old and is located in National Register Historic District or sits on the National Register of Historic Places or has been designated as Texas Historic Landmark, a State Archeological Landmark or a National Historic Landmark. It’s also eligible if it’s listed as significant in the 2003 Downtown Dallas/Architecturally Significant Properties Survey or as a contributing structure in the 1994 Hardy-Heck-Moore Survey. That means the ordinance impacts downtown Dallas and parts of North Oak Cliff. The rest of the city’s on its own … for now.
As Wilonsky points out, similar ordinances in other cities have not enjoyed perfect records in protecting historic buildings. Then there is the question of what happens during the delay. According to the DMN report, the 10 day window allows city staff and preservationists to engage developers to reconsider adaptive reuse or find historic tax breaks and incentives. But you may remember that the demolitions of the Headington Company’s historic properties on Main St, which kick-started the formation of the mayor’s task force that presented the new ordinance to the council, came after that developer claimed to have exhausted every preservationist angle. In fact, the only dissenting council member, Lee Kleinman, voted no on the ordinance because he argued it is essentially ineffective.
But in a city that has shown little appreciation of its architectural heritage, the new ordinance is an important step in reversing attitudes around preservation, and it gives preservationists more tools than they had before. Lord knows they need them. After all, there are more than a few ways to challenge a historic property. You could always run a DART line up alongside one.