Crozier Tech: Just Tear it Down Already

Maybe it's late in the day for this, but is there any chance the city could rescind its bizarre special ordinance ordering the preservation of the old Crozier Tech high school building at the east end of downtown and just let the poor bastards who bought the place knock it down and truck it to the landfill?

According to what I can see at the appraisal district, the 5.4 acres of land at Pearl and Bryan on which the century-old long-abandoned hulk sits is worth $6.8 million. Given the appraisal district's record of accuracy on large downtown parcels, the land is probably worth about a kabillion bucks more than that.

But the old high school building itself is worth $48,000. Forty-eight grand! That's the price of a King Ranch F-250 dually.

I'm talking about a pickup truck.

Who knows how they even came up the forty-eight grand? Is that what the owner could get from a fertilizer company for the bat guano? Or would he also have to scrape the mortar off the bricks and sell them from a booth at a history buff festival in little bundles of six tied together with raffia?

The developer of this property, a guy named Clyde Jackson, whom I have never met and with whom I have never spoken, can't tear down the building to develop his 5.4 acres because of an ordinance passed in 2000 making it illegal for anybody to do anything but preserve it. I sort of remember when they passed that. It was back when Dallas was afraid it might run out of history. We were in a period of history hoarding. I wonder if we built up too much inventory?

How this particular sucker got chosen for landmarkification, I have no idea. All the news stories say it's "architecturally significant." Yeah, well, you know, at my age I look in the mirror, I try to tell myself the same thing. It's a reach.

Sometimes shit is just old.

So anyway Jackson has a deal before City Hall to renovate this price-of-a-pickup piece of crap for guess how much?

Ten million dollars! You heard me right. Ten million bucks! Oh my God! I mean, sure you could do it for that much. If you spent 10 million bucks on an F-250 dually, you could fly the son of a bitch to Guadalajara.

The question is, why would you do that?

The ordinance on this property has all sorts of other weird-ass requirements. The owner not only can't knock the damn thing down, he can't build anything near it in a certain "buffer zone," wasting a bunch more of his square footage.

Buffer zone. That's what they put around sewage treatment plants. I wonder, that's all. Do we think we're San Francisco, we've got too much investment flooding into downtown?

Here's the other thing. What do we really know about this roach motel? And what's the math on whether it's worth 10 million bucks to save it?

You know what's interesting? The house I live in is supposed to have been built by the first principal of Crozier when it was still called Dallas High School. We are currently in yet another phase of partial renovation at my house. Every time we pull off some drywall and get down to another layer of bad ship-lap, I want to go stomp on that guy's grave. Just because something is old doesn't mean it was ever done right.

Ah, maybe that's it. I'm just pissed off at the principal. But I have learned this much over a couple decades in my house: We could have saved about 75 percent on our own cost of renovation by taking a shitload of pictures, bulldozing the place and building it back to look like the pictures. (Would you mind not sharing with my wife that I have said this? I don't want to wind up living at the Days Inn. Between us for now, OK?)

The Crozier deal is up for a big tax break from the city. I don't know that the tax break is tied to the preservation effort. Maybe the developer would ask for the tax break even if he didn't have to spend 10 million bucks getting rid of urine smell. I guess I would ask for it. Why not?

But what about this, just as a bargaining position? The City Council says, "Hey, we rescind the ordinance. Scrape that sucker down to the dirt. But forget about the tax break."

Just thinking out loud here. History is a lot like a pickup truck, come to think of it. It may even be a really nice pickup truck, one you'd like to have. But you still have to look at the sticker. Don't you?

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze