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Say Goodbye to the Dallas Symphony’s di Suvero, Hello to Office Box

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. As the general building boom in and around downtown and Uptown continues, and Klyde Warren Park’s popularity transforms what were once undesirable lots abutting a freeway into the hottest plots of land in the region, someone noticed that there’s a well-located little parcel doing nothing more than housing a giant sculpture. And so, yesterday Steve Brown reported that the land at the southeast corner of Pearl St. and Woodall Rodgers Freeway will be sold by the Dallas Symphony to make way for a new office tower.

It makes perfect sense. A spokesperson with the symphony said the proceeds from the sale (estimated at $7.2 million, one of the highest prices ever for the Arts District) will go to fund symphony operations. And while the symphony has pushed through their own rocky financial times, the financial world around orchestras is ever an uneasy one. So from a symphony perspective, it’s fortuitous that the DSO had a little land to flip to shore up their operations. Bravo.

Of course there are concerns about the development — there always are.

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How Will the City Council Settle the Preston Center Skybridge Battle?

In case you haven’t noticed, Preston Center basically sucks. If you want to know why, read this piece by the Dallas Observer‘s Eric Nicholson. Long story short, the decrepit parking garage in the middle of the development is owned by the city of Dallas, and all of the 70-odd property owners in the vicinity have usage rights. This highly fragmented ownership also impedes the area’s redevelopment.

Enter Harlan Crow.

Earlier this year, Crow proposed building a skybridge at Preston Center West to connect a new Tom Thumb grocery store to the adjacent parking garage. Even better, Crow proposed spending more than $1 million to renovate the garage and make it handicap accessible. As with every other new development proposed in the vicinity within the last year, however, it quickly became mired in controversy, with former mayor Laura Miller leading the charge, stating that a new grocery store “would only add to congestion,” and that “the oversized sky bridge … will cast a big shadow over an area that will now have obstructions in the sidewalk…”

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On the Semiotics of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Yesterday I had a conversation with a fellow who told me a story that blew my mind a little. Thought I’d share. This guy’s daughter was doing some volunteer work at a school in West Dallas. Mostly poor, mostly brown and black kids. The daughter asked some of them what they thought of the fancy Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, expecting to hear how much they loved it. But the kids told her that they hate it. They said the bridge divides the city. They said white people built that bridge to remind folks in West Dallas where the border lies, the one that separates rich from poor. “They stay on their side, and we stay on ours,” one of the kids said.

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Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Strange Case for the Trinity Toll Road

Back in December, Mayor Rawlings met with the Dallas Morning News editorial board to make his case for the Trinity toll road. At the time, the story was reported by the DMN, with subsequent editorializing on FrontBurner by Jason Heid and Wick Allison. I was also tempted to write something about it at the time, but dropped the idea after the pieces by Jason and Wick appeared. Since then, however, I find myself going to back to re-listen to the audio recording over and over. It’s not that politicians don’t say crazy things at times. We all know they do. It’s the idea that someone, somewhere, thought the DMN editorial board would find this pitch persuasive.

What I’ve attempted to do below is step through the mayor’s case point by point.

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Museum Tower Designer Insists Nasher Needs to Yield in Reflectivity Dispute

In a piece earlier this month for the Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Johnson of Fain Johnson, the principal designer of Museum Tower, says the only possible solution to the Nasher Sculpture Center’s demands to be free of the light reflected upon its building and garden lies in the proposed alterations to its roof — changes which the museum has refused to make:

In the meantime, the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund, after exhaustive technical studies, has recommended recalibrating the clerestory cells in the ceiling without touching any other elements of the Nasher’s architecture. It is my understanding that they will turn their engineering research over to the Nasher design team to vet, design, and install the recalibration, and they will pay for it. The Nasher, I understand, has declined this solution, however, the original charge to “eliminate all reflection and do it all on Museum Tower,” given what we know, seems frankly unachievable.

I remain hopeful that new participants in the process will look beyond entrenched positions and a consensual and effective solution will be agreed upon. Dallas is a beautiful city and I hope that a resolution for this difficult issue between Museum Tower and the Nasher can be found soon.

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It’s Only a Matter of Time Before Mark Lamster’s Head Is Too Big for Him To Navigate the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

First we named him the best critic in the city. Then the Observer named him the best architecture critic in the city. Now comes this fawning story from The Atlantic’s CityLab. You know who I feel sorry for? Lamster’s wife. He must be impossible around the house. (All kidding aside, you should read the CityLab story. It puts into perspective the great work he has done in his short time here, and it should make you realize how fortunate Dallas is to have him.)

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Headington Companies Pursue Odd PR Strategy While Tearing Down Buildings

Tim Headington — oilman, movie financier, real estate mogul — is a very private man. He doesn’t do press — at all. Here and there, he has been written about. But to my knowledge, he has never given an interview for a magazine or newspaper profile (please correct me if I’m wrong). We’ve asked for time with him. In fact, a couple years back, we killed an innocuous story about a very small part of his empire after his people told us that the timing was bad (it was) and that a look at the bigger picture would serve Dallas better (they were right). We were told that it would be possible to get time with Headington to tell the larger story. That never happened.

His penchant for secrecy is well and fine, when it comes to most of his operations. Check out the website for Headington Companies, for example. In how little it reveals about the organization, it feels like a repudiation of our selfie society. It is brilliant. But this secrecy fails him when it comes to demolishing old buildings.

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1611 Main Street, R.I.P.

Sunday afternoon, while the Cowboys were losing to the Rams, I heard a loud bang and went to investigate. It was the sound of a wrecking ball hitting the 129-year-old building next door to ours. I walked out to Main Street and saw people standing in front of Neiman’s, their phones pointed toward 1611 Main Street. I had missed the first few swings of the crane, but I got there just in time to see the top portion of the building crumble to the ground.

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The Difficulties of Explaining McKinney Avenue to 3 Guys From Miami

Saturday night, after dropping a friend at her swanky Main Street pad, I decided to head over to Highland Park Village for a bit of merry-making. This would require cash. Luckily, a strip shopping center with plenty of free parking (and, most importantly, an ATM) was right on the way, located at the corner of Pearl and McKinney.

As I whipped in to the parking space in front of the bank, I observed three bewildered-looking, well-dressed middle-aged men standing in front. A rough transcript of our conversation follows.

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Jim Schutze Changes His Name to Charles Schultz and Decides He Likes Mark Lamster After All

Don’t know about you, but one of my regular stops every day is the blog for the Architect’s Newspaper. Yesterday they posted an item about how Mark Lamster is winning hearts and minds in Dallas. They wrote:

Since arriving in North Texas to take up the job of Dallas Morning News architecture critic, Mark Lamster has been under a trial by fire, suffering scrutiny and criticism for everything from his Yankee origin to his unsympathetic take on the city’s built environment. Well, local opinions seem to be warming a bit to the sharp-tongued scribe. In a recent piece in the Dallas Observer, Charles Schultz went so far as to praise how quickly Lamster has come to understand Big D’s development landscape and the insider track around its so-called zoning regulations. Schultz even showed a little contrition for a previous quip: “I apologize for calling him ‘Mark Lamster, New York Pinhead’ when he first showed up.”

Two things about that. 1) Guests who join us tonight at the Rustic for our Best of Big D party will get an early look at our August issue, in which we name Lamster the city’s best critic. So the editors at the Architect’s Newspaper are quite right. And 2) please, everyone, let us forevermore refer to the Observer’s bearded, laconic gadfly as Charles Schultz.

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Richard Tettamant Likely Out as Director of Police and Fire Fund

I’ve heard a high-grade rumor that Richard Tettamant is stepping down from his directorship of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. I stress: rumor. I can, however, confirm that next week’s pension board meeting will feature an executive session to discuss a personnel matter. I’m not sure what this possible move might signal about the fund’s finances. Maybe it means nothing. Maybe the fund’s unorthodox, real-estate-heavy portfolio is in good shape. Maybe Tettamant just decided — suddenly — that it was time to retire. But I think I do know what his possible departure means for the Nasher: good news.

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Santiago Calatrava Ordered to Pay €3 Million For Faulty Design, Continues Run of Being Awesome

Calatrava covered the opera house with thousands of tiny mosaic tiles, using a technique made famous over a century earlier by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona. But the Valencia authorities threatened to sue Mr. Calatrava last month after chunks fell off in high winds.

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Too Late to Find Another Architect For the Margaret McDermott Bridge?

We’re probably too far along in the process of the creation of the new Interstate 30 bridge over the Trinity River (aka Large Marge‘s little sister, the McBridge) to back out of this deal now. Especially since parts of it are already being manufactured in Tampa. So the bridge, slated to open in 2016, is pretty much a sunk cost at this point.

But the bad news about architect Santiago Calatrava keeps coming.

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The SAGA Pod 4.1: Jim Schutze on DISD, and ‘NY pinhead’ Mark Lamster on tearing out a downtown highway

This week, the SAGA Pod gets some new artwork (although when iTunes will switch it, who knows?), a new microphone (which I’m still getting used to; you can tell when I look away to check the Internet while talking), and the same ol’ stammering host you know and love. First, Jim Schutze talks about his […]

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