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‘Old And New Can Work Together’: Preserving Dallas Landmarks In An Era Of Revitalization

The Kirby Building is a Dallas landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

As downtown Dallas sparks back to life, the city faces a crucial question: Tear down old buildings or save and rehab them? A task force on preservationwas created after several historic buildings were demolished last fallwithout much warning. Katherine Seale chairs the city’s Landmark Commission and is also the head of that task force

For this week’s Friday Conversation, she talked about the task force’s new recommendations for the city. 

 Interview Highlights: Katherine Seale...

…On last fall’s surprise demolitions:

“…I don’t think many people saw it coming. It really hit folks in the gut I think because just the shock of seeing these 100-year-old buildings with a wrecking ball in the middle of downtown. There was enormous public outcry saying, ‘I can’t believe Dallas is still, at this day and age, when we’ve recognized that we have so few historic resources left in our downtown, we’re still demolishing buildings.’”

…On the task force’s suggestion of ‘delayed demolition’:

“After the demolition of those buildings…the city put into place a 10-day demolition delay…Before the demolitions, anyone could walk into our building inspection office and fill out the paperwork to demolish a building and return that day with a demolition permit in hand. The task force was trying to prevent those demolitions by midnight and have some type of review process.”

Final Report: Recommendations from the Historic Preservation Task Force

…On why the Continental Avenue Bridge did not make it past the Landmark Commission:

“A lot of the landmark commissioners felt we would have a more impactful role if we included ourselves in the debate as to what should happen to historic resources like the Continental Bridge, but by just identifying its stylistic characteristics and then writing some criteria to protect those really wouldn’t accomplish the goals of the program.”

On the importance of historic preservation in downtown Dallas:

“…The most successful cities -- not only in economics, but also a culturally and historically diverse downtown – are more exciting and more attractive, they have livelier streets when they have a good mix of old and new.”

The Downtown Dallas Historic Preservation Task Force will present these recommendations to a city council committee on April 20.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.