City Hall

And Whatever Became of First Presby's Plans to Buy and Restore 508 Park Avenue, Anyway?

It's been, what, four whole months since last we visited 508 Park Avenue and the surrounding properties, which remain in limbo at this late date. (Though better that than a heap of bricks.) First Presbyterian Church of Dallas acknowledged way back in August 2010 that it wants to buy the building in which Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and maybe even Charlie Parker recorded. But as First Presby's senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Joseph J. Clifford, told us in December, it's only taking 508 Park off of Glazer's Distributors' hands if it can raze the adjoining 1900 Young Street, which is where it intends to build an amphitheater.

Last we looked, the Landmark Commission's downtown task force and city staff gave the plans and property the "courtesy review" once-over and concluded that First Presby needed to reconsider its demo plans for 1900 Young. But at its January 4 meeting, the Landmark Commission actually gave First Presby its blessings, with some caveats. From the minutes of that meeting:


the courtesy review with the condition that retention of the 12 x 12 foot stone corner portion of

the existing 1900 Young Street building be retained and integrated into the amphitheater design

to make it more compatible with the historic overlay district, with the finding the existing

structure is a contributing structure to the Dallas Downtown National Register District with the

final plans, elevations, and details submitted for Landmark Commission approval.

Which brings us to today. Or tomorrow, actually: 508 Park Avenue, 1900 Young Street and 1905 Canton Street (site of the church's proposed greenspace) are on downtown task force's agenda yet again. First Presby still wants to raze 1900 Young and replace it with that amphitheater, while giving 508 Park Avenue a "facade restoration." Landmark will make the final determination at its May 2 meeting (six days before Robert Johnson's 100th birthday), at which point, just maybe -- finally -- the buildings will have a future instead of a vaunted past.

"This is the final hurdle," Clifford tells Unfair Park this afternoon. He says should Landmark sign off, "our hope is we can close and move forward as quickly as possible."

Update at 3:10 p.m.:
What odd timing -- OvationTV just posted to YouTube the clip of Eric Clapton performing Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil" in 508 Park Avenue. It follows on the other side of the crossroads.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky