Neighbors Stand Up To Teardowns
The Dallas Morning News, June 2, 2003
Dallas-area residents are taking back their neighborhood house by house, street by street.
No, I am not talking about guerrilla warfare. I am speaking about homeowners who are stemming the aesthetic attack on their neighborhoods.
For years, there were acerbic accusations hurled toward tasteless builders and senseless buyers who are ruining the community with "big hair houses, McMansions and faux chateaus." Now, action is replacing lament. Excitement is replacing dismay.
Now, action is replacing lament. Excitement is replacing dismay.
Individuals are placing deed restrictions on their homes and preventing the houses' demolition.
Neighbors in Greenway Parks have negotiated a conservation district that will preserve their neighborhood's charm and increase their property values.
Many other neighborhoods, like Northern Hills and those along Hackberry Creek in Highland Park, are having similar conversations about ways to maintain their areas' character and significance.
Preservation Park Cities quickly has grown to more than 1,000 members, with a strong board focused on how to protect Highland Park's and University Park's architectural charm and tradition.
Derived from myriad ideas and numerous meetings of many groups, a strategy is emerging:
Communicate that too many good houses are being torn down.
But also recognize there have been and will continue to be many good homes built.
Create a public awareness of meritorious houses with plaques awarded by Preservation Park Cities or with the property's placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Focus on the blocks and contiguous neighborhoods where architectural character still exists.
Encourage homeowners on untouched blocks to create small districts with zoning covenants, easements or design guidelines.
Ultimately, a neighborhood isn't in peril from the voracious appetite of speculators and builders. It is in peril only from the inaction of homeowners.
Homebuyers always will pay more for a house if they don't fear an unpleasant house will be built next door or down the street.
We need to remember that our most important and valuable homes in Dallas aren't mansions designed by builders; they are historic homes that were designed by architects in the 1920s and 1930s and have been beautifully restored and expanded, not torn down.
Despite our successes so far, we need to take an even deeper interest in our graceful houses. Dallas has the world's finest collection of 20th-century residential architecture. We shouldn't squander it.
Every time an important home is renovated or a graceful neighborhood preserved, it is a gift to the community.
Douglas Newby is a real estate broker who helped initiate the first single-family historic district in Dallas in 1978.