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MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

by Anne Young last modified Feb 07, 2013 07:38 AM
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MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

Posted by Anne Young at December 02. 2005

I just saw a piece on Channel 8 about the art in the soon-to-be-redeveloped Mercantile complex falling under the threat of the wrecking ball. There are vivid mosaic murals, limestone bas reliefs, large sculptures, all in MCM style, and all embodying the MCM spirit that - one would think - attracts buyers of condos in old buildings in the first place. The buildings have been vacant for so many years that I think the public forgot the treasures inside.

Estimated cost to remove the art is $200,000. A representative from the City of Dallas - Office of Cultural Affairs says they can contribute $12,000. The reporter interviewed Veletta Forsythe Lill and she says the situation makes her angry. And the developer, David Levey of Forest City Enterprises, says sure they'd love to remove it, but gee, their hands are tied because the asbestos abatement project starts on 12/15 and no one can enter the building once that's underway. (There is more than one building at the Mercantile; art in the clock tower building will be safe - it's all the art in the other three buildings in danger.)

What has the city already contributed to this project? According to an article published in the Dallas Morning News on August 30th of this year:

[em]The city will subsidize the quarter-billion-dollar project with about $70 million in public incentives, including tax abatements and funds generated from a tax increment finance district that includes sections of Uptown and downtown Dallas.[/em]

The project also seems to have been fast-tracked, since the article also states:

[em]Implosion of three of the four Mercantile Bank buildings – the 33-story tower on Main Street will be preserved and converted into apartments – should begin in autumn 2006, with construction to start shortly afterward, Mr. Levey said. Completion is tentatively scheduled for 2008. (Admittedly, I have no idea how long the abatement process will take in the buildings to be imploded, so that may well take 8 to 9 months.)[/em]

I just checked WFAA's website and there is no link yet to the story, which was reported by Chris Heinbaugh.

Dallas has such a reputation for being blinded by new and shiny things, and tearing down rather than restoring. This out-of-town developer is taking advantage of the local mindset. And what percentage is $200,000 in a quarter-billion dollar budget, anyway?

Raymond Nasher? Rusty and Deedie Rose? The DMA? Preservation Dallas? Is there anyone who can help, since the city and Forest City Enterprises can't/won't?

If I had $200,000, this wouldn't even be an issue. But I hold out hope that someone does, and that help will come from [em][strong] somewhere[/strong][/em].

[url href=]8/31/05 DMN article here[/url]

Re: MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

Posted by Anne Young at December 03. 2005

The DMN has the story:

[url href=]Artwork could be ruined[/url]

Unfortunately, no link to the WFAA report.

Oh well, it's all Belo.

Re: MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

Posted by Anne Young at December 03. 2005

Well, I had conversations with both Dwayne Jones of Preservation Dallas and Dave Levinthal with The Dallas Morning News today.

Dwayne Jones said they ARE trying to do something, but the miniscule timeframe and lack of quick money for funding makes it difficult.

Veletta Forsythe Lill, the former councilwoman, is heading up the fundraising campaign, and Dave Levinthal said the Office of Cultural Affairs can provide contact information for Ms. Lill.

Since this is a city office and closed on Saturday, I can't call to get contact information for Veletta Lill, but here is contact info for the Office of Cultural Affairs:

Dallas' Office of Cultural Affairs: 214.670.3687
Margaret Robinette - public art program manager
Betty Switzer - head of the department

Dave Levinthal says he has gotten quite a bit of response from his article, so with luck something can be done.

If anyone has any ideas or information, please let me know.

The more outcry, the better!

Re: MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

Posted by Anne Young at December 05. 2005

WFAA has posted the video link, and you can view it here:

[url href=]Locals upset as artwork endangered by project[/url]
(click the red Video link under the photo of the mosaic detail)

Re: MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... to be destroyed??

Posted by Anne Young at December 05. 2005

Margaret Robinette with the Office of Cultural Affairs - City of Dallas emailed me a bit ago.

She said: Any contribution towards saving this wonderful art that speaks to the history of Dallas would be greatly appreciated!

You can make a secure, tax-deductible donation online at:
***Be sure to enter Mercantile Art in the Fund Name field so that your donation is earmarked for this specific campaign.

You can also write a check made payable to The Dallas Foundation/Mercantile Art, and send it to:

The Dallas Foundation
900 Jackson Street, Suite 150
Dallas, TX 75202

The Dallas Foundation will acknowledge all donations with a letter for tax purposes. Questions? Call The Dallas Foundation at 214.741.9898.

*edited for minor stupidity.

Re: MCM art in the Mercantile Bldg... Saved!

Posted by ThreeDogKnight at December 22. 2005

We have a benefactor, who also happens to be my boss:

Developer's funds save Merc mosaics

Dallas: $270,000 project will extract, preserve historic downtown art

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, December 22, 2005

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

Dallas-based investor turned downtown developer Tim Headington will foot the more than $270,000 bill to extract and preserve decades-old mosaics, murals and freestanding artwork from the city's Mercantile Bank complex.

The art collection – which as recently as last month seemed fated for destruction during Forest City Enterprises' quarter-billion-dollar redevelopment of the historic complex – will remain downtown and on public display in its entirety, said City Council member Angela Hunt, who helped forge the deal.

Mr. Headington, who was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment, has not decided where the art will be located.

Our goal originally was simply to keep the collection from the wrecking ball, Ms. Hunt said. But this – I couldn't be more excited. It's taken the stress out of my Christmas.

Scramble for benefactor

The announcement marks the end of weeks of frayed nerves, as city officials and art preservationists scrambled to find a benefactor to pay the lofty art extraction fees. Forest City, which broke ground on the Mercantile project last week, offered $20,000 toward preserving the art. Dallas City Hall pledged $12,000. But after an art conservator toured the facility, the price tag for saving the art soared past $200,000.

Ms. Hunt met with Mr. Headington and the art conservator Tuesday to seal the deal – one that had been in the works since the architectural firm ArchiTexas approached Mr. Headington about two weeks ago.

Tim is extremely proud to be a part of this project, said Craig Melde, a principal with ArchiTexas who was with Mr. Headington on the businessman's first tour of the Merc.

When he saw the art, he found it very valuable historically and in its beauty. It didn't take him long to realize it was something he wanted to preserve.

Dallas-based ArchiTexas has been working intensively with the developer of the Mercantile and Mr. Headington to guarantee the preservation of the artwork.

While the details haven't been finalized, Ms. Hunt said, the collection of murals and mosaics – most designed by California artist Millard Sheets – will stay together and stay downtown, in a gallery or in a building that is open to the public, she said.

Mr. Headington, president of Headington Oil Co., is a partner in Joule Urban Resort, a boutique hotel under construction on Main Street. But the hotel doesn't appear to be his first choice for where to display the art, Ms. Hunt said.

The art extraction is expected to begin immediately and take six to eight weeks, in keeping with Forest City's redevelopment timetable. The art conservator recognizes this is an emergency – that this is triage, Ms. Hunt said. We have to get started immediately to save the artwork.

And it will likely include the freestanding work in the Merc – pieces Forest City originally intended to keep. Executive Vice President David Levey said the company is leaning toward letting Mr. Headington include them in his collection. But because the exchange will be a private transaction, not a public one, he said, Forest City's original $20,000 offer of assistance is off the table.

One place?

We're delighted and pleased he has stepped forward, Mr. Levey said. Mr. Headington's interest is to have the entire collection so it can all be in one place. We'll be giving that very serious consideration.

The best-case scenario would have been to find someplace in the Mercantile to keep the artwork, said Dwayne Jones, executive director of Preservation Dallas. But Mr. Headington's generous offer is a close second.

It's not ideal, but it's really good, he said. I'm pleased Forest City is stepping forward to work out a deal with someone and that we've been able to find a local person to take the art.

Real estate editor Steve Brown and architecture critic David Dillon contributed to this report.


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