As work drags on to get the long-vacant historic T&P Warehouse on Lancaster Avenue up to minimum building standards, a city commission Monday gave the owner a couple more months to make progress before it decides whether the mammoth structure is worth restoring.
“From the commission’s standpoint, we are very anxious to see this building rehabilitated,” Paul Randle, chairman of the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, told project architect Ray Boothe. “From the city’s prospective, they’re concerned about the integrity of the building and the safety of the people in and around the building.”
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Randle said, but added, “They want to see demonstration that the building’s going to be stabilized.”
The commission agreed to give the owner until the end of January to complete more work, much of which should have already been done.
Boothe told the commission that it’s been hard finding workers and that the work is expensive.
“We’re moving as fast as ... finances allow,” Boothe said. “What we’re trying to do is spend as much money as possible on things that can be done permanently. If everything was in place and cash flow was not an issue, we could have been finished months ago.”
In January, the city’s planning and development and code compliance departments asked the landmarks commission to determine whether the property at 401 W. Lancaster Ave. can be “reasonably rehabilitated” as a property contributing to the city’s heritage.
The action follows an inspection of the eight-story, 85-year-old building by city officials and the owner, Dallas-based Cleopatra Inc., in December. The inspection resulted in a long list of code violations. Cleopatra has owned the building for more than 20 years with plans to redevelop it into apartments, a hotel, offices, shops and restaurants.
Murray Miller, the city’s historic preservation officer, said work is being done at “an exceptionally slow rate.” Earlier this year, as many as 20 construction workers were on site, but as of last week there were two, he said.
“The rate of progress is not keeping pace with the construction schedule,” Miller said. “The rate of progress is not keeping pace with the actual needs of the building.”
Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth, suggested that the owner sell the building. Each time the organization places it on its Endangered Places list, it receives calls from developers looking for contact information for Cleopatra, she said.
“There are other developers who would like to work with that building, but nothing ever goes forward,” Tracy told the commission. “I don’t know if this building is at a point where the owner might be willing to sell to someone with a track record and can invest at the level it may take.”