Fight City Hall or Haul Out the Wrecking Ball? A Look at the Corner of Ash and Commerce.
What you see above is all that remains of 4044 Commerce Street, where Commerce intersects with Ash Lane not far from Fair Park. Our pal Justin Terveen posted some photos of the demolished structure to his Facebook page and Flickr photostream. Justin, who lives nearby, noted that it met with the wrecking ball over the weekend. He wondered why, given the fact it's stood there for 65 years bothering no one. And so I made some calls.
Well, I made but one -- to co-owner Ron Weisfeld, who bought the building with Daniel Boucher in 1996 with the intention of converting it into 32 lofts. Weisfeld says those plans fell through for a number of reasons, and the building's been vacant for years. But, he says, he didn't want to tear down the building. That was the city's idea.
It began, he says, in June 2009, when code enforcement came 'round with a lengthy list of fix-'em-ups -- everything from cleaning up broken glass around the property to connecting a working toilet to the sewer line to installing an air conditioner. Said the city's directive, get it done by July, or face a lawsuit. Which shocked Weisfeld: "I drive by some derelict houses that should have been knocked down 20 years ago. This one wasn't in terrible shape. We moved the lawn and cleaned up graffiti on a regular basis. But they sure move quick."
Update at 3:23 p.m.: Before the jump, Katherine Seale, exec director of Preservation Dallas, offers her thoughts on the demolition:
The city seems to be on a mission to rid historic downtown and south Dallas neighborhoods of its vacant buildings. Demolition is the quick and easy solution. City Hall may justify the demolitions by arguing they have created an opportunity for new development, but as we have seen time after time, it's more likely that we will be left with a vacant lot. And while a few vacant lots may not be a bad thing, a neighborhood or area of town that is pockmarked with vacant lots is a very bad thing.
Now, back to the rest of the item.
Weisfeld says he and Boucher tried fixing up the vacant building, but it wasn't cheap. Then, on June 23 of this year, according to Dallas County court records, the city sued the owners, who tried fighting City Hall for a while. But on September 17, according to court records, the city and the owners decided it'd be best for all involved if they just demolished the building. A deadline of December 14 was set.
"It's sad," says Weisfeld. "The city's been doing this to other property owners of vacant buildings -- trying to get them to either use, repair or demolish the buildings. It was tough for me. It was a financial decision -- it was more economically feasible to tear it down than fix it up."