Crumbling Landmark: What to do?

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#1
On our local forum there's a long-running thread about the Texas & Pacific Warehouse, a vacant, historical building that has a lot of potential. The current owner (a company called "Cleopatra" in the thread) is basically just sitting on it while it crumbles.

The building sits on the southern edge of Downtown Ft Worth in an area that's beginning to see new development. Behind the building (to the left in the pic below) run I-30 and several train tracks that separate Downtown from the Near Southside (which is also redeveloping). A tunnel is being constructed next to the building (at the far end in the pic below) to better connect Downtown with the Southside. The companion T&P Station (still an active train station) has been renovated into loft condos, with a lounge, an event space and a tavern on the first floor.

The city offered incentives to Cleopatra to redevelop the building, but those expired and were withdrawn. The city is trying force them to do basic code compliance work to keep it from degrading further, but they are really dragging their feet.

I guess my questions are: What would/could you do to force the ownership to rehab a building like this in your city? And do any of you know of a similar case that was successfully resolved (i.e., shoddy ownership -> rehabbed building)?

 

dvdneal

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#2
Sadly I've got nothing but sympathy or is it empathy?

Sounds like some jerk bought the building thinking some hipster developer will come along and pay a boat load of money to redevelop it, but they don't want to spend any money on keeping it up until that happens. The only thing I can offer is have someone inform the developer about things like tax incentives or grants for historic buildings that might make it worth while to fix up while Cleo waits to sell it.
 
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#3
The long frontage along Lancaster Avenue was (and still is I suppose) loading docks.



A concept from a few years back to convert it to condo/hotel would take out a section for an entryway.

 

mendelman

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#4
The only substantive actions that can be done is for the City to issue citations for property maintenance violations (if the City has those regs and staff).

Unfortunately, these very large specific use buildings are hard to reuse unless it is acquired for free. The old Main Post Office in Chicago has been sitting for decades because it is just so massive that it is hard to do anything with it.

But it can be done. The former Montgomery Ward warehouse in Chicago was converted to residential in the early 2000, but the near northside real estate market warranted the invested.

Hopefully, Fort Worth's real estate market continues strengthening and can encourage reuse.
 
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#5
Funny you should mention.... there is a HUGE US Post Office on the next block over. Along the south side of Lancaster Ave., there is the derelict T&P Warehouse (the subject of this thread), then there is the US Post Office- beautiful building. The USPS has announced once or twice that it will shut down that branch and the offices in the building but they keep getting reprieves. There's been talk of putting Fort Worth's City Hall in the building but nothing ever comes of it (FtW City Hall is currently in a butt-ugly piece of 1970s ARGHitecture). The Post Office has classical architecture


And then there is the T&P Station which has been remodeled into condos, and has a an active train station, tavern and event spaces on the first floor.


Across the street from the Post Office is a new building (completed last year) that echoes the columns of the Post Office building.


This section of Lancaster Ave. used to be cut off from downtown by I-30 (which was elevated above Lancaster). They've since moved the freeway south to the other side of the three historic buildings, bringing them back into downtown and opening up the corridor for new development.





And since you mentioned Montgomery Ward, on the west side of town there is Montgomery Plaza, a former Montgomery Ward warehouse. It's kind of funny, the Montgomery Plaza is the epicenter of a Near Westside revival in Fort Worth.but virtually all the nearby developments are doing better than the Plaza itself. The restaurant row in the plaza is getting the reputation of being cursed, especially to new startup operations.
 
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#6
The city has been citing them for code violations. They bring in some work crews and pay lip service to the citations, but even after the work there are still more violations.

I think condemnation is a possibility, the threat of which may force a sale to a more willing developer.

That part of downtown is redeveloping as is the neighborhood just south of the I-30 which is turning into a bit of a brewery/distillery/cidery district. The time to redevelop this building is now, in terms of what's going on around it as well as the state of the building (to avoid additional decay).
 
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#7
The city has been citing them for code violations. They bring in some work crews and pay lip service to the citations, but even after the work there are still more violations.

I think condemnation is a possibility, the threat of which may force a sale to a more willing developer.

That part of downtown is redeveloping as is the neighborhood just south of the I-30 which is turning into a bit of a brewery/distillery/cidery district. The time to redevelop this building is now, in terms of what's going on around it as well as the state of the building (to avoid additional decay).
I would be concerned that a condemnation would just push the owner to tear the building down (though understandably at a huge cost).

Do you have any language that prohibits demolition by neglect? Our Code specifically speaks of property owners responsibility to maintain their structures and that the lack of doing so is not enough reason to tear a building down. It also has enough teeth to take them to court before a hard and fast violation has happened but instead when a maintenance violation seems eminent.

I feel your pain with this one. I think my solution* would be taking them to court monthly until something positive is done.

*I say solution as if I'm sure this will solve the problem however I'm fully aware that it may not.
 
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#8
They can't just tear it down; it is:
Listed on The National Register of Historic Places
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
Highly Significant & Endangered City of Fort Worth Landmark

So it's protected as a historical structure.
 
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#12
Sounds a bit like demolition by neglect. Can your SHiPO assist?
This is where having a city HiPO and knowing your SHiPO come in handy.

Your Big D neighbor has some great demo by neglect language. They also deal with a lot of cases. They may have some sound advice for you. Give them a call!
 

Suburb Repairman

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#13
I have a hard time believing Ft. Worth doesn't have some robust demolition by neglect language to hang its hat on and take them to court.

I know that building well and I'm actually kind of surprised a hipster developer HASN'T snatched it up given what is happening in downtown Ft. Worth.

I wouldn't panic too much just yet. At least in the photos and from the last time I was in Ft. Worth it looked like it was still structurally sound and not at risk. But it would be good to at least seal it up from the elements.

You might consider approaching LIHTC developers about doing an affordable/mixed income project using tax credits. I've seen a couple of cool projects like that, often incorporating historic preservation tax credits in addition to low income housing tax credits.
 
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#14
This is where having a city HiPO and knowing your SHiPO come in handy.

Your Big D neighbor has some great demo by neglect language. They also deal with a lot of cases. They may have some sound advice for you. Give them a call!
I'm not involved with this in any official way. (Remember, I'm not a planner, just a guy.)

That said, I know that Historic Fort Worth and a bevy of governmental and non-governmental people are actively working to preserve the building. The last time the president of Historic Fort Worth (an architect) toured the building, he said it's still structurally sound.


To zoom out a little bit, I guess I was just wondering if there were similar examples of a situation like this in other cities, and how they were resolved.
 
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