Some Friends of Unfair Park are wondering whether developers can indeed come in and tear down the buildings that make up the core of Deep Ellum -- the old turn-of-the-20th-century storefronts along Main, Elm and Commerce. The short answer is: Absolutely. Some have pointed out that there are several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places; that's true enough. But that doesn't mean a thing.
See, without the city's official protection, granted courtesy the Landmark Commission with approval of the city council, buildings on the National Register are still fair game. Only buildings that are "city-designated landmark structures" -- such as the Knights of Pythias Temple at 2551 Elm Street or the Sons of Hermann Hall at 3414 Elm Street -- are protected, which means nothing can be done to them at all, not even the slightest alteration, without council's consent. But Deep Ellum itself isn't a historical district -- merely a "proposed" one, which, again, is absolutely meaningless.
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There are already considerable chunks of old storefronts missing from the landscape. Last year, former Preservation Dallas executive director Dwayne Jones took me on a tour of "torn-down Dallas" and said the parking lot on Commerce Street, behind the old Bomb Factory, contained many historically relevant structures once upon a long, long time ago. No one complained when they disappeared; no one even recalls their being torn down, after all. And no one will remember 20, 30 years from now that all the other buildings currently standing on Elm and Main and Commerce were ever there. They'll be too busy perusing art galleries and dining on sidewalks and shopping in bookstores to notice. --Robert Wilonsky