City Hall

Dallas Wants to Ban Museum Tower-Like Death Rays from the City's Future Skyline

Just when you thought the shark-jumping Museum Tower imbroglio couldn't get any more absurd, The Dallas Morning News' Steve Blow goes and writes a column comparing the spat that has riveted the Dallas Arts District for the past year and a half with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and paralyzed the Middle East for more than half a century.

There are an almost infinite number of reasons why making that analogy is ridiculous, but Blow's ultimate point isn't too far off base. The two sides have staked out their positions and refuse to budge, with each round of competing insults and op-eds entrenching them further. Public opinion is polarized, with anyone paying attention having taken one side or the other. There's no end in sight.

There's little the city of Dallas can do at this point to ease tensions. Mayor Mike Rawlings' attempts to mediate a solution last year failed. What city officials are doing is trying to make sure there's never a Museum Tower Part II. Regulations limiting the amount of glare from new buildings passed out of a city building committee last week, and are tentatively slated to go before the City Council in August.

"It's just like any other code provision," David Session, the city's chief building administrator, told Unfair Park. "Something happens in the society at large brings an issue to our attention, whether it's kids possibly being harmed by falling and so [we enact] requirements on guards for windows. Things like that."

Except in this case it's not falling children the city's worried about. It's life-withering beams of light.

To remedy that, the proposed ordinance (see below) would cap glass reflectivity at 15 percent for buildings greater than three stories tall. Builders can exceed that threshold only if they hire an engineer who can demonstrate the glare won't negatively affect "pedestrians, motorists, adjacent areas, landscape, air traffic, and existing buildings."

Measuring the reflectivity of a building's glass gets fairly wonky, and Session couldn't give any examples of buildings in Dallas that would rate at 15 percent. The Dallas Business Journal's Candace Carlisle, who first noted the proposed change on Thursday, reports that Museum Tower's glass comes in at 44 percent and uses "the most reflective glass you can buy in America."

Carlisle also reports that these waters are relatively uncharted. "This is the first time, or the only city I know, that's doing this," Phil Sikes, an assistant building official with the city, told her. "We're cutting-edge on this."

The new regulations, if passed by the council, will apply only to future construction, meaning Museum Tower can continue frying its neighbors in full compliance with city code.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson