DALLAS — Plans for a large implosion have rattled the faithful at St. Jude Catholic Chapel, a quiet refuge tucked between historic buildings in the heart of downtown Dallas.
“We are concerned with the demolition so close by,” said Annette Taylor of the Archdiocese of Dallas.
Steps away from the chapel, which opened in 1968, crews are prepping to implode the 15-story Praetorian Building on Main Street. The empty office tower, built in 1908, was once considered Dallas’ first skyscraper, yet its owners plan to tear it down as early as this summer.
“It’s going to be happening,” said Michael Tregoning, chief financial officer at Dallas-based Headington Oil. “We’ve been planning this for a long time.”
Headington Oil owns the property and also developed the Joule Hotel across the street. Tregoning said he hopes to implode the building sometime between late summer and early fall.
Yet demolition plans are troubling neighbors, who complain they’ve been largely left in the dark about specifics and any potential impact.
“It’s definitely going to cause some havoc,” said Tom McGill, owner of the Sol Irelandes restaurant, which sits feet from the tower. “I just want them to level with us! Tell us what’s going on.”
The Archdiocese said neither the city nor the developer has contacted the Church about the demolition plans.
“I think people in our construction office were a bit surprised that we’ve heard nothing,” Annette Taylor said.
What’s also unclear is what will replace the Praetorian. Its demolition comes as the Joule undergoes a year-long, $78 million expansion.
Meanwhile, crews have been removing asbestos from the tower for weeks.
Already, neighbors are growing irritated. Plywood partitions now cover a pedestrian pathway that doubles as patio seating for restaurants. McGill said it’s driving away his patio business and compares it to dining in a “shed.”
“It’s a big turn-off, because you miss the whole ambiance of being outside in downtown Dallas,” McGill said.
He and others worry the problems will only grow as the implosion date approaches. Rumors have swirled that demolition crews will close off that pedestrian pathway altogether, and businesses might have to shut down.
“They’ve already told me I’m going to be shut down,” said Scott Taylor, who owns a newsstand on the pathway. “It’s just going to look like a war zone for an extended period of time.”
Property owners also worry an implosion could damage neighboring buildings dating back more than a century.
The Catholic church worries about rattling delicate mosaics in its chapel.
Scott Taylor and others would prefer crews dismantle the building slowly — floor-by-floor — instead of in a single, big explosion.
“It’s the fear of the impact it’s going to have on the area,” he said.
Tregoning insists his company has been very clear with neighbors about the implosion.
“We have gone to great lengths to make people comfortable,” he said. “We have a huge investment downtown; we certainly don’t want to dilute the value of the block.”
Although he insisted the demolition plan is very well thought out and has been approved by the city, he couldn’t provide any details about whether nearby streets will be blocked or whether businesses will be asked to close.
“I’m not sure what’s going to be blocked,” he told News 8. “It must be a slow news day; all of this has been answered so many times.”
Later, Mikel Bowers, an attorney for the company, called News 8 to say the demolition plan is, in fact, “still evolving.”
Bowers denied that neighbors have been left in the dark. He said engineers have expressed that an implosion will not damage nearby buildings, nor should it seriously interrupt business.
“There will be no closing of businesses,” Bowers said, adding the pedestrian pathway will remain open. “Pedestrians will be able to move through there... We are making the area better, in our opinion.”