Dallas Preservationists Gear Up to Save Old Buildings From Downtown Park Plans

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One of Downtown Dallas' oldest buildings, a 129-year-old Romanesque Revival structure at 1611 Main St., was razed on Sunday to make way for an expansion of The Joule hotel, the latest in a line of historic Dallas structures sacrificed on the altar of progress.

A few blocks to the southeast, local preservationists are hoping to rescue a handful of historic structures standing in the way of another type of progress: a city park.

In the downtown parks plan unveiled by City Hall last year, Harwood Park occupies 3.8 acres bounded by Harwood, Young/Canton, Pearl, and Jackson streets, a block from Main Street Garden. The rub is, that plot of land is currently occupied by several old buildings that are part of the Harwood Historic District.

See also: Dallas Plans to Remove Robert Irwin's Long-Neglected "Portal Park Piece" From Downtown

"[W]e have heard about the plans for Harwood Park and have discussed them at our preservation issues committee meeting a while back," Preservation Dallas executive director David Preziosi said. "We too are concerned about the potential demolition of the buildings in the district, especially those fronting Harwood Street, and have expressed that concern to the Park and Recreation Department."

The three buildings that front Harwood (the pet groomer Petropolitan occupies one) were built between 1924 and 1937 and are considered "contributing" structures to the historic district.

Michael Hellman, assistant director for Dallas' park and recreation department, cautions that the park is still very much a vision. Right now, there's no funding for design work or land acquisition costs, and construction likely won't commence until after the next bond package, which is likely several years away. Developers have so far not floated any creative proposals to finance Harwood Park like they have for Pacific Plaza.

That said, Hellman says the city is listening to the preservationists.

"We are aware of [those concerns]," says Michael Hallman, assistant director of park and recreation. "We don't have any preconceived notion on how this park should be designed. [The parks master plan] does include some sketches, but by no means does that mean we plan to tear down all those buildings."

Perhaps, Hellman suggested, the city could preserve the building facades and find a way to integrate them into the park. But that's just an idea.

Whatever plan the city ultimately settles on, it will have to have its plans approved by the Landmark Commission, which could be skeptical of alterations to the existing structures.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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