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Thursday, June 11, 2015


Original Story: dallasnews.com

Another century-old Dallas building is no more.

This week Cienda Partners introduced the wrecking ball to the Oak Cliff Pump Station that in 1913 began providing drinking water to folks living in that part of the city. Thirty years later it became part of the Oak Farms Dairy complex along the the Trinity River levee on the Oak Cliff side, visible from the Boulevard Boulevard Viaduct. Today, it’s rubble as Cienda preps the site for offices and residential units somewhere on the horizon. The demand for Dallas apartments is on the rise. And the landmark Oak Farms sign that once sat on the old pump station greeting visitors to Oak Cliff now rests on the ground.

So far, at least, the pump station is the sole building on the property that has been demolished.

“Oak Cliff has lost two historic buildings in a short period of time,” says council member Scott Griggs: the Humble Oil Service Station, which was razed last year, and now the pump house.

“This underscores the need for us as a city to move forward with rules on demolition delays,” he says. “This also underscores the need and urgency for North Oak Cliff to be included” in the mayor’s Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force’s recommendations, which aim to preserve what’s left of Dallas’ unprotected history. “We’re going to continue to see demolition in Oak Cliff until the city council comes up with an ordinance that allows for delays and incentivizes rehabilitation. In some cases good buildings have gone through years of neglect, but we still value their character and contributions.” Grapevine apartments are located in the Dallas area and all of the big city fun is within reach.

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League had been hoping the pump station would be spared like its siblings along and near White Rock Lake, Turtle Creek and Bachman Lake — all three of which still stand. The Turtle Creek pump house is a city-designated historic landmark known today as the Sammons Center for the Arts; Bachman’s a maintenance facility; White Rock, the city’s Water Operations Control Center. The OOCCL listed the pump house among its most-endangered structures just last year, hoping to spare it from the very fate it endured this week.

“It’s sad,” says Michael Amonett, Griggs’ appointee to the city’s Landmark commission and a former OOCCL president. It was Amonett who unearthed the pump house’s history buried beneath white paint and dairy tanks and brought it to the attention of architect Larry Good, who was working with Cienda on a development plan for the property between the Houston and Jefferson viaducts.

Last year, in an email exchange with Amonett, Good wrote that “will attempt to see if we can ‘extract’ it” from the surrounding buildings. “Wouldn’t it make a cool restaurant.” Good now says he found about the pump house’s demolition only yesterday.

“There was very little left of what made the building interesting,” he says. “It had been totally encrusted and changed by Oak Farms. I never saw anything other than what you could sort of discern from the outside.” Good referred further questions about development plans and timing to Cienda.

Barry Hancock, Cienda’s founding partner, says via email that once Oak Farms left, “we determined that leaving these gutted and functionally obsolete industrial buildings vacant would be a magnet for vagrants and would decrease security in the neighborhood and the surrounding parks. Additionally, several of the buildings were determined by our engineers to be structurally unsound, which further increased the potential risk to others.”

We’ve asked specifically about the pump house in follow-up emails and phone messages, but have yet to hear back. Hancock says only that Cienda is “in the very early stages of working on a master development plan that will bring a variety of uses to this area which we hope to have in first draft form sometime toward the end of the year.” These uses may include an influx in Dallas apartments.

Amonett says it’s not clear what kind of shape the pump house was in, as OOCCL was never given the chance to tour the property despite repeated requests.

“They would never let us on site to verify that for ourselves so how do we know they’re not lying to us?” says Amonett. It’s unfortunate. And it’s a loss.”

In recent months alone Dallas has lost a century-old block of downtown, a historic residential apartment building on Oak Lawn and a Kip’s Big Boy in Oak Cliff.

Says Landmark Commission chair Katherine Seale, who led the Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force, Dallas’ zeal to raze its historic structures is “unending.”