From "Hellhound" to Heavenly, a Next-Door Neighbor Looks to Buy 508 Park Avenue

At this very moment, the City Attorney's Office is awaiting a verdict in the 4-year-old case of City of Dallas v. TCI West End, involving the demolition of the MKT Freight Station in the West End in '06. The trial lasted two weeks, and word is both sides put on a good show -- now it's up to the jury, which got a late start this morning, to decide whether TCI illegally razed the building four years ago. Soon as the jury comes back, we'll head over to the courthouse -- because, well, that's just what we do.

Till then, though, I bring news concerning another historic downtown building and pending litigation involving the city of Dallas: 508 Park Avenue, which the owners, Colby Properties (a Glazer's Distributors subsidiary), spent most of last year trying to raze following the city's code crackdown over vacant downtown buildings.

The thing ultimately landed in a Dallas County courtroom, where it awaits trial.

But in recent days word has been circulating: There may not be a trial after all, since the building's about to be bought by next-door neighbor First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, which also operates the Stewpot. I called Candace Rubin, the Realtor once charged with selling both 508 Park Avenue and the Masonic Temple as a package deal, but she had no news -- turns out, she's been taken off the case.

Today, though, I spoke with Jerry Worden, First Presbyterian's facilities manager, who tells Unfair Park that, sure enough, it's attempting to buy the old Warner Bros. Film Exchange in which Robert Johnson recorded, among other immortals, "Hellhound on My Trail" in '37. But, he says, it's far from a done deal.

"We do have the building under contract," he says. "We made an offer pending due diligence. And I think at this point that's as far as it's gotten. The plans for what we might do with it if we acquire it are farther down the road."

He says the church wants the building because "it's a good deal." He also stresses First Presbyterian has no plans to tear it down: "We are fully aware of its historical significance."

Truth is, he says, "we have no money to do anything with it, except acquire it. But at least we'll get the city off everyone's back." But, he reminds, the church can't and won't do anything about buying 508 Park Avenue till it's approved by the congregation during a meeting, at which point a vote will be taken on its acquisition.

Jeff Love, the man who says he's planning on buying the Masonic Temple and converting it into "an upscale movie theater," is aware of First Presbyterian's plans to acquire the temple's neighbor. And while he says he's "a little nervous" about it, "either way we're still gonna do it. It just makes too much sense."

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