So, regarding those missing trees at Elm and North Harwood:
They'll be back. Don't know exactly when. But, says Lincoln Properties' Laurie Garcia, who manages that corner lot at Elm and Harwood for the Boston-based owners, they're planting new ones "as soon as possible." And that corner, she insists, will be "very appealing." She sent along the park plan pictured above as proof of that promise.
But, yes, she can totally understand why people are unhappy today with the sudden disappearance of the trees, which came without warning over the weekend.
"I was deeply concerned, and it was a difficult decision to cut them down," she tells Unfair Park. "I like to keep any living item intact to the extent of my ability, but in this case it wasn't possible."
And why not? Well ...
"The people who went in there to cut the trees back for the billboard, they did a terrible job and mishandled it, long story short." That's Downtown Dallas president John Crawford speaking now. He's referring to subcontractors hired by New York City-based Fuel Outdoor, which slapped up the ad on Nike's behalf shortly before the NBA All-Star Game.
Crawford says his organization and Lincoln Properties have been working with Fuel to fix the problem -- and it's been "going on a long damn time, to be frank." But a plan was finally submitted to the city's chief arborist, Phil Erwin, who signed off, and Lincoln got the OK from the city to remove the trees one week ago today. Says Erwin, "as far as I'm concerned they covered their bases -- the property owner, that is, not the sign company."
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Fuel, incidentally, is known for slapping up billboards without permits. And calls to Fuel this morning and again this afternoon were greeted by a receptionist who said she's passed along our many messages, sorry, but that's the best she can do.
Everyone to whom I spoke to said the same thing: It probably wasn't such a good idea to chop down the trees over the weekend. After all, they acknowledge, it did look awfully suspicious. "I never like it when things happen on the weekend," says Erwin.
Steve Houser, founder of the Dallas Urban Forest Advisory Committee and its former chair, says it would have been wise for the owners to have taken a "pro-active" approach and at least give surrounding property owners and downtown denizens a heads-up. And he can understand the concern as well: Downtown trees, he says, make up only 1 percent of the city's urban tree canopy, and given that the average lifespan of a downtown tree is 18 years, "it makes those trees a little more important."
Says Garcia, "We were very careful about orchestrating this, and I want to assure you we didn't wantonly remove the trees." She says in an e-mail follow-up that the landscape will be mitigated "in accordance with Article 10 of the City of Dallas code," and that "the undamaged Live Oak has been incorporated into the restoration plan for this parcel."