As we mentioned yesterday, members of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and John McCall Jr., its attorney and former president, met on the sidewalk in front of the Oak Cliff Christian Church on 10th Street this morning to provide more specifics on the agreement reached following its court-ordered mediation with the Dallas Independent School District.
Standing in the in the shadow of the ca. 1916 building, McCall told Unfair Park that he and the OOCCL are "very pleased" with the outcome, especially because the DISD was forced into mediation by Judge Martin Hoffman.
"It was clear they weren't planning on us finding any common ground," he says.
McCall says the OOCCL presented the DISD with two options: One called for the DISD to restore the church building for district use, and the other was to find a buyer for the property. "But, DISD doesn't really have a good track record of restoring historic buildings. So we went in with the idea of putting it on the market for 36 months, and then if it doesn't sell, then [DISD] could do what they want."
DISD attorneys never expected the second option, according to McCall. They liked the idea, just not the time frame. The district's counter offer was for 90 days, which the OOCCL didn't deem to be enough time. Seven hours later, the October date for closing a sale was agreed upon by both parties.
"It's only six months, but with as much media attention as we've had, hopefully we'll get a buyer to come through," McCall told a small group of media in attendance. And while McCall and OOCCL president Michael Amonett were filling us in on the details of the agreement, a real estate developer was already scouting the building, taking pictures and scribbling notes. The perspective buyer asked to remain anonymous, but he told us that he became interested while reading coverage of the issue on Unfair Park.
The next step, McCall said, is to get release forms for anyone who enters the property. "They will have to sign releases, whether it's me, a Realtor or [reporters] that say DISD won't be held liable because of exposed nails of broken wood."
McCall was quick to point out that the DISD has agreed to tarp the roof in an effort to minimize leaks; they'll continue maintaining security for the property; and electricity will be turned on so it can be shown to potential buyers. Gus Galanis of Double G Construction, who said he was hired by DISD, showed up to get started on the tarping and other projects. "Inside, it's very beautiful," Galanis told us before leaving to file paperwork for the upkeep.
McCall has contacted Service Realty, which specializes in church realty, to sell the property and said he's hopeful that the six-month window will provide the OOCCL enough time to find a buyer. However, he cautioned against having "another Crozier Tech on our hands," and noted that Oak Cliff has enough boarded up properties.
"We want to save this if we can, but the reality is that there is a cost involved to do this and to remodel," McCall said. "Can we find an individual or company wiling to do that? I hope, but I don't know."
The building certainly qualifies as a fixer-upper, and then there's the purchase price. According to McCall, the DISD has to recoup at least $1.2 million. Naturally, the buyer will also have to pay the closing costs, etc. However, with 28,000 square feet, there are plenty of options for the building, and the property has been abated down to the wood studs, which makes rewiring a cinch.
James Boykin, who works in the neighborhood, agrees that the building needs a face lift, but he indicated his desire to see it restored.
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"Something as historic as this building that's been around so long, you just hate to see torn down," he told Unfair Park. "I would definitely like to see it stay, especially when it could be used for so many different things."
OOCCL president Amonett was also pleased with the agreement and stressed that as a former DISD grad, this wasn't a case of "beat up on the district."
"We just want to see this old building saved," he said. "And since it will stand until August, that's just more days for us to find a successful resolution for the building, but if we had done nothing, this building would have been torn down weeks ago. And at least we have hope now."
McCall told us who's behind that new-found hope. "Thanks to Michael and the people in the [OOCCL], this building is still standing."