Can a building earn landmark status after demolition permits are filed? ‘This is sort of new territory’

(Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

The City of Dallas faced a new question this week: Can a building be saved by earning landmark status after the demolition permits have been issued?

“That’s a good question for which we don’t know the answer,” says David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “I don’t think the city knows the answer to that question.”

But they’ll have to figure it out. On Monday, Dallas’ Landmark Commission approved a request to launch the city’s “Landmark Status Process” on the building that houses El Corazon de Tejas even though it’s been approved for demolition (along with East Dallas properties the Elbow Room and the Dallas ISD headquarter on Ross, which are in the same boat).

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More than 800 people showed their support to preserve the historic building, and the Commission agreed it’s worth investigating to see if there’s something worth saving. Like the Lakewood Theater last year, the “Landmark Status Process” involves several months of reports to determine the most significant elements of a property, and why they should be protected. In addition to the Commission, the decision has to be approved by both Landmark Designation Committee and the City Council before a property earns landmark status. Once it is declared, demolish and building permits cannot be pulled on that building without a review by the Landmark Commission.

“That’s what usually happens,” Preziosi says, adding that he can’t remember any other cases such as this, where landmark status was sought after the demolition permits were approved.

“I think this is sort of new territory,” he says.

Whether it’ll do anything to save the building remains to be seen.

Preziosi expects this topic will be the main focus of discussion at the May 17 Landmark Designation Committee meeting, of which he is a member. “The city needs to make some decisions about whether initiating landmark status offers any protections [for buildings after demolition permits are issued].”

But since the demo permits are in place, he’s not incredibly hopeful.

“They can still tear down the building if they want,” he says.

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And according to statements made Monday, CVS, represented by Orange Development, “has no desire to keep the building,” Preziosi says.

It’s a shame, he says, as the property is a unique addition on West Davis. “It’s a cool, fun building from the 1940s, and we don’t have too many of those in Oak Cliff.”

According to Preziosi, Oak Cliff Councilman Scott Griggs made a last-ditch effort to reach out to CVS directly, versus talking to the developer. It’s not an unprecedented request to ask CVS to keep a notable building. While it usually builds new, the national chain has adapted its design to existing buildings in other states, but usually only when the area is protected by a historic overlay, unlike this part of Oak Cliff.

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  • Ruth Ann Cook

    We need to protect other old buildings in OC now. Many of us think someone else will do it and we are not knowledgeable and organized to help, as we should be. The El Chico bldg should have been protected, of course, as we all see now. Very sad; and it would be generous of CVS to stand for history-and do the right thing.