We Rec­om­mend

‘Yes’ on Prop C, to pre­serve and re­pair Fair Park

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation&world -

The rats gnaw­ing around the trea­sured Hall of State ar­chives are glad to have the run of Fair Park. Same for the en­croach­ing al­gae ooz­ing a stone-dis­solv­ing acid as it works its way across the his­toric build­ings.

And those aren’t even the worst of the threats to this South Dal­las gem. The very in­fra­struc­ture of th­ese grand build­ings is in dan­ger of fail­ing, as the wall-strength­en­ing steel, now ex­posed to the el­e­ments, be­gins to cor­rode.

What shame­ful stew­ards we’ve been of the work of long-ago ar­chi­tects and ar­ti­sans, those re­spon­si­ble not only for one of the world ’s largest col­lec­tions of art deco build­ings but who cre­ated the ex­quis­ite de­tails of the door­knobs, the light stan­dards, the win­dow cov­er­ings and so much more.

Dal­las voices are quick to be­moan the fate of an all-but-dis­in­te­grated Vic­to­rian house along the free­way or the raz­ing of a beloved bar. But what about the de­mo­li­tion by ne­glect of Fair Park, the ar­chi­tec­tural jewel of the city?

Too of­ten, the city has shorted Fair Park on its main­te­nance needs, re­sult­ing in a mon­u­ment tee­ter­ing on the edge of be­com­ing a cracked-open, fall­ing-apart and of­ten-flooded mess. Even more tragic, this is hap­pen­ing at a lo­ca­tion with per­haps the big­gest po­ten­tial to lift the South Dal­las neigh­bor­hoods that sur­round it.

It’s time to re­verse this in­dif­fer­ent over­sight and be­gin to re­pair and pre­serve th­ese build­ings, many of them con­structed dur­ing the 1936 Texas Cen­ten­nial Ex­po­si­tion.

That’s why this news­pa­per rec­om­mends a “yes” vote on the city of Dal­las Propo­si­tion C, which would al­lo­cate $50 mil­lion in bonds for the re­pair and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Fair Park fa­cil­i­ties. (The es­ti­mated re­pay­ment, in­clud­ing in­ter­est, will be $67.8 mil­lion.)

If ap­proved, pay­ing off this bond will not re­quire a tax-rate in­crease, ac­cord­ing to city staff cal­cu­la­tions.

As Dal­las has bick­ered over who should run Fair Park, too of­ten lost in the de­bate is this: Th­ese build­ings must be re­paired, re­gard­less of who’s in charge.

Most of the venues that would ben­e­fit from th­ese bond dol­lars house wor­thy year­round op­er­a­tions. Their ten­ants keep the vi­tal­ity in Fair Park, from the Mu­sic Hall and the African Amer­i­can Mu­seum to the Hall of State, home to the Dal­las His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and a trove of in­valu­able doc­u­ments.

Even the ca­sual visi­tor can spot the de­cay creep­ing through Fair Park: His­toric metal win­dows and highly dec­o­ra­tive doors al­ready so rusted that soon they will be beyond re­pair. Dam­age in the ceil­ing of the Hall of He­roes; por­ta­ble fans dr y ing out flood sin lec­ture fa­cil­i­ties. Col­or­ful fa­cades peel­ing away, in­side and out.

Beyond the vis­i­ble crum­bling is a daunt­ing punch list of plumb­ing, elec­tri­cal and struc­tural sta­bi­liza­tion work. Here’s just one haz­ardous ex­am­ple: An elec­tri­cal vault reg­u­larly hosts a foot of stand­ing water — with high-volt­age equip­ment just over­head. Work­ers have to pump out the room when­ever ac­cess is needed.

Fail­ure to get a grip on things will only re­sult in more dam­age and push away part­ners, both cur­rent and prospec­tive ones.

And to those ask­ing why the State Fair of Texas doesn’t bankroll the re­con­struc­tion, re­mem­ber that this bond in­volves build­ings out­side the fair’s purview. While the State Fair agreed in June to pro­vide the cit y with mil­lions of dol­lars for main­te­nance and im­prove­ments, t hose ren­o­va­tions are for other struc­ture son the 277-acre park.

Re­cently, Adrian Benepe, the for­mer New York City parks com­mis­sioner who’s now the di­rec­tor of city park de­vel­op­ment for The Trust for Pub­lic Land, told our col­league Robert Wilon­sky that other cities would kill to have Fair Park .“The glass is half-full — be­cause it’s here,” Benepe said. “Sure, the chal­lenge is what to do about it. But at least you have it.”

In­deed we do — for now. It’s time more than nos­tal­gia propped up Fair Park’s shaky fu­ture. Vote yes to save this frag­ile na­tional land­mark.

Dal­las City staff

This is one of the Hall of State’s rust­ing and peel­ing doors.

Nancy Mccoy/quimby Mccoy Preser­va­tion Ar­chi­tec­ture

The ground-level south en­trance to the Hall of State at Fair Park shows dam­age from water, al­gae and age.

City of Dal­las

The area around the side door of the Mag­no­lia Lounge at Fair Park is crum­bling.

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