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Owners of 508 Park Ave. to Landmark Commission: The Bridge "Virtually Doomed Redevelopment of the Entire Area"

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The city's Landmark Commission on Tuesday afternoon upheld an August 12 decision by its Central Business District Task Force, unanimously denying a request by Colby Properties to tear down 508 Park Avenue based on its "imminent threat to public health and safety." The commission also denied Colby's application to raze 1900 Young Street, which abuts the Park Avenue property, with only one commissioner dissenting.

Jack Westenborg, vice president of operations for Glazer's Distributors, an affiliate of Colby Properties, told commissioners that his company has shown the property approximately 150 times, and prospective buyers have been surprised by the deterioration inside.

"To my knowledge, not one single buyer was interested in its architectural significance," he added.

Colby commissioned a study regarding the property's economic viability stemming from prospective buyers being "intimidated by the homeless" and expressing concerns about crime and debris in the area, according to Westenborg. Additionally, he said vandalism and theft increased since the opening of the city's new homeless shelter, claiming The Bridge "virtually doomed redevelopment of the entire area."

While the study said the building presented no economic viability, Westenborg said that wasn't the reason cited for demolition because the city attorney's office raised issues concerning code violations. Which is exactly what the commissioners saw -- code violations -- hardly anything constituting an "imminent threat to public health and safety."

"I feel like you haven't met the requirements for what you're applying for," said commissioner Brian Keith, an architect and urban planner.

Commissioner Ann Piper, a real estate appraiser, told Westenborg that he simply wasn't making his case. "I understand the homeless is a problem, but I'm not sure how demolishing the building fixes that problem."

She said her review of the building showed a stable structure, with some repairs needed to the windows and roof, which are "reasonable" to expect, as Westenborg admitted to only paying for increased security over the years. So why hasn't Colby ponied up any dough to improve the building?

"We have never regarded this as an historic building," Westenborg said, adding that the building is "worthless," and Colby has no plans for the site if demolition would be approved.

"What we're really looking at is demolition by neglect," said vice-chair Mattia Flabiano, an architect.

While representatives from Preservation Dallas didn't speak to the commission, a letter outlining the building's historic significance was read into the record. Board member Scott Potter describes the property as "a treasure."

"It's one of those things that once it's gone, you can't turn back the clock and change it," he tells Unfair Park. "There's no way to rethink those decisions once you make them."

Potter says he's supportive of The Bridge and stresses that other organizations supporting the homeless such as The Stewpot have been near the property for years. "I don't really think The Bridge is contributing to their problems."

Colby Properties has 30 days to appeal the Landmark Commission's decision to the City Plan Commission.

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