For a solid year, city council member Angela Hunt worked with the city's Landmark Commission, Preservation Dallas and neighborhood activists to protect the former McKinney Avenue Baptist Church, better known to most as the former home of the Hard Rock Cafe. But late Friday, she "heard a rumor" that the building was scheduled to be bulldozed the following morning, at the behest of owner Brett Landes -- who had promised throughout the spring of 2007 that no way he was demolishing the built-in-1910 church.
She scrambled to see whether permits had been pulled, but got nowhere; only when the excavator started doing its work Saturday morning did she, and neighborhood residents, discover that Landes and his representative, Jack Gosnell, had lied the entire time about preserving the building. They lied to the Landmark Commission. They lied to the media. They lied to the neighborhood residents. And they lied to Hunt.
"And I am not happy," Hunt told Unfair Park Sunday night. "When you lie publicly, there are always consequences. And the public has a long memory, the neighborhood has a long memory, and I certainly have a long memory, and I don't like it when people lie to me."
Hunt, though, isn't just angry with Landes and Gosnell. She's unhappy with the Landmark Commission, which last spring refused to designate the building as a city landmark -- against the Designation Committee's recommendation that it do so. That single act alone would have protected it from the bulldozers.
Now it's too late: "The Landmark Commission refused to designate it, and there was nothing else we could do at that point," Hunt says. "It's very, very frustrating after the developer and his representative looked me in the eye and told me they were going to save the building."
Hunt's been exchanging messages with Gosnell; Unfair Park has yet to reach him or Landes. But there are no penalties for the building's destruction: It's Landes' property, with which he can do whatever he wants -- no word yet on what that is. But the demolition of the former church is emblematic of Dallas' treatment of its history: Yesterday's treasures inevitable wind up neglected or destroyed, all in the name of the bright, shiny brand-new.
"And it's just sad," Hunt says. "A 100-year-old building, an amazing piece of Dallas history. And there aren't city penalties, because, yeah, unfortunately the Landmark Commission declined to designate this building, and so because it's not designated, it's unfortunately fair game for the bulldozer. But I think it's always dangerous for developers to make promises to a neighborhood and a city council member and a city commission about how he's going to save a building only to destroy it." --Robert Wilonsky
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