Deep in the heart of downtown lies a historic building some fear may not survive the test of time.
But perhaps Thursday’s designation of the Texas & Pacific warehouse on Lancaster Avenue — a statuesque 84-year-old building that has fallen into disrepair through the years — as one of the state’s Most Endangered Places will help.
The T&P warehouse is among eight sites named to Preservation Texas Inc.’s 12th annual list.
“The 2015 list is a diverse group of sites that reflect the range of preservation issues that historic places throughout the state are confronting,” said Evan Thompson, executive director of the Austin-based group that works to promote preserving buildings of historical significance.
The T&P warehouse has for years been the focus of local redevelopment efforts.
Plans have called for revamping the structure into apartments, condominiums, penthouses, shops and restaurants. But proposals have faltered, leaving the once-grand building deserted and untouched.
“It’s an important landmark in Fort Worth,” said Jungus Jordan, a Fort Worth City councilman who chairs the Lancaster Tax Increment Finance board. “But the building has become derelict unfortunately. We are quite concerned. We want to see something done to bring it back to what it can be.”
Gaining this new designation, some say, could help with ongoing preservation efforts.
“By including [sites] on the list, Preservation Texas hopes to rally Texans statewide to step up and save them,” according to the group’s statement.
Other sites on this year’s list: the Mount Vernon A.M.E. Church in Palestine; Historic Resources of Dickens County; the Laguna Hotel in Eastland County; the Rio Vista Farm in El Paso County; the Falls County Courthouse; the Addie L. & A.T. Odom homestead in Newton County; and historic structures in municipal parks statewide.
The 500,000-square-foot warehouse on the southern edge of downtown was built in 1931 along with the T&P Railway Terminal and the U.S. Post Office. The building, long described as a great example of the zigzag moderne art-deco style, long ago gained historic designation.
Many consider the revitalization of this structure key in the ongoing multimillion-dollar reconstruction of Lancaster Avenue.
It has been vacant since the 1970s.
“Demolition by neglect is currently the greatest threat to this landmark property,” according to Preservation Texas. “The basement is filled with water, trees are growing from the roof and no effort has been made to mothball or stabilize the building. Continued delay of the rehabilitation may result in the building being so deteriorated that its reuse is no longer feasible.”
Preservation Texas noted that the building can be saved using city, state and federal historic preservation tax incentives.
But the owner of the building may be on the verge of losing more than $11 million in local taxpayer money to help fix the building.
Ola Assem, president of the Dallas-based Cleopatra Inc., has owned the building since 1997. Plans to renovate the building have been proposed through the years but never started and the TIF has signed off on four deadline extensions to help Assem.
Assem now has until late September to show executed loan documents for renovation of the building — or lose the TIF money.
“That is an important building, but we’ve got to take a truthful look at it and see if it can truly be redeveloped into something we can be proud of,” Jordan said. “We have to be realistic about it obviously. We would like to see the owner come forward with a viable concept.”
Assem declined to comment on the new historic designation Thursday.
Various historic structures in municipal parks throughout the state are also included on this year’s endangered list.
There is no list available of at-risk historic structures, but Thompson of Preservation Texas said he hopes this designation encourages Texans to “come forward with information on the resources in their area, so that we can begin to inventory the range of issues faced by sites, and compile useful information about how these sites are managed, what sources of revenue are currently being devoted to them, and how local communities are engaging with these sites, if at all.”
But he said an example of this type of resource at risk includes “park infrastructure, such as Heritage Plaza, part of the City of Fort Worth’s 112-acre Heritage Park” which was included on the group’s 2009 endangered list.
Plans are underway to raise money to renovate the 1.5-acre plaza area at Heritage Park that would reopen to the public. So far, $2.2 million has been raised and Downtown Fort Worth Inc. said it plans to raise an additional $1 million through private and nonprofit donations to fix the park.
Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610
Endangered Places in Texas
Preservation Texas Inc. released its 12th annual list of most endangered places in the state Thursday. They are:
▪ The Mount Vernon A.M.E. Church in Palestine
▪ Historic Resources of Dickens County
▪ The Laguna Hotel in Eastland County
▪ The Rio Vista Farm in El Paso County
▪ The Falls County Courthouse
▪ The Addie L. & A.T. Odom homestead in Newton County
▪ Historic structures in municipal parks statewide
▪ The Texas & Pacific Warehouse in Fort Worth
Source: Preservation Texas Inc.