Owner of historic blues venue threatens demolition

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by By GARY REAVES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 22, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 12:40 PM

WFAA-TV
The building at 508 Park Avenue is a shrine to the blues, but is threatened with demolition.

Singing the Blues

Gary Reaves reports

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DALLAS - The owner of one of downtown Dallas' most historic buildings is threatening to demolish it.

He's pushing back against the mayor's plan to force owners of dilapidated buildings to make crucial repairs before someone gets hurt.

But is the city asking too much?

Across the street from the Stewpot, where the homeless gather daily for a free meal, 508 Park Avenue is a shrine to the blues.

This is where blues legend Robert Johnson recorded his last and most famous music.

Now the owner, under pressure from the city to fix the place up, has filed for a permit to tear it down instead.

"The property owners are faced with sprinkling the building, doing a lot of things that are not required of older existing properties," said Katherine Seale from Preservation Dallas.

The list of building code violations at the property fill a full page and fire code violations fill another.

The owner claims that no matter how much he fixes, the city keeps finding more problems. But officials claim these codes save lives.

"Firefighters could get trapped in these buildings. These buildings are not safe. They need to meet basic codes every building owner has to meet," said City of Dallas spokesman Chris Heinbaugh.

Preservationists agree the buildings must meet code, but they say the tough economy calls for the city to back off and give them more time.

"Our fear is that the impossible set of criteria they are demanding of property owners and the threats of litigation will lead to demolition," said Seale.

She says it would be a shame to lose a place so historic, that Eric Clapton rented the place to record some of Johnson's songs.

This is just one of more than 30 old buildings Dallas mayor and code enforcement have targeted as dangerous.

Some of the others have made far fewer efforts to comply with the law.

The city expects to start taking some of them to court, if they don't show signs of serious progress, very soon.

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