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Remembering the 'Leaning Tower of Dallas' | 2 years since it came down

Due to construction setbacks, high winds and failed implosions, the former Affiliated Computer Services building stood strong for longer than initially expected.

DALLAS — It may feel like a lifetime ago, but it has now been two years since the famous "Leaning Tower of Dallas" came tumbling down after 15 special days in the limelight.

Due to construction setbacks, high winds and failed implosions, the former Affiliated Computer Services building stood strong for much longer than initially expected.

It was scheduled to be demolished by Lloyd D. Nabors Demolition, LLC on Feb. 16, 2020 and was supposed to be replaced by The Central, a $2.5 billion development made up of residential, hotel, restaurant, entertainment and retail space that will take up 5-million-square-feet.

Then in March 2021, De La Vega Development revealed an updated version of what The Central would look like, offering more outdoor accessibility and "health-minded spaces."

Going back to 2020, what gave life to this building's story was an initial implosion that failed to bring down the core shaft of the 11-story building. It was designed in 1971 by Datum Engineers in Dallas when it was the original Southland Corporation Office Tower.

After the failed demolition, the monument became something of a landmark to Dallasites. #LeaningTowerofDallas became a trending hashtag on social media as thousands of people flocked to the site to snap pictures. 

Credit: wfaa

A petition was even started to save the tower, and a memorial website, Rememberthetower.com, was created in advance of the tower's eventual demolition.

At one point, some entertaining marketing took place when a Choctaw Casino & Resort advertisement randomly popped up one night.

Credit: The Richards Group

Construction crews began a renewed demolition attempt on Feb. 24 with a 5,600-pound wrecking ball.

"Though not very dramatic or speedy, it is a safe approach to bringing down the remaining elevator and stairwell shaft. Safety is even more important this week, given the strong gusty winds," engineer Stan Caldwell told WFAA on Feb. 24. He's not affiliated with this demolition, but he has worked in the structural engineering field for nearly 50 years.

Thomas Taylor, the principal design engineer for Datum Engineers in Dallas and one of the original developers of the tower, explained to WFAA at the time why demolition experts had so much trouble with the office building's central concrete core.

"A cast-in-place concrete core," Taylor said. "We call it a slip-form concrete core. And that became the stabilizing element for the building. So it's sort of like the tree trunk of a tree. I mean, what came off is all the branches and the leaves. But the tree trunk is a little harder to bring down than the branches."

Taylor said the demolition plan was to sever all those branches and leaves while also cutting off the central concrete core, allowing it to topple over where it could be more easily torn apart by heavy machinery.

"It's just something to have a little humor about at the demolition people's expense," Taylor said. "Which is not totally fair because, in my opinion as a structural engineer, that is extremely sophisticated engineering calculations."

At one point on a windy Wednesday and during an attempted destruction, high winds grounded a wrecking ball trying to get the job done.

Wind gusts got as high as 20 miles an hour that day, making the wrecking ball unsafe to use. Workers were limited to using heavy equipment to clean debris from the ground around the tower. 

Then eventually on March 2, 2020, after several hits from a wrecking ball, demolition crews and onlookers watched the tower crumble slowly, and fall all at once at 3:18 p.m. 

In a statement released, Nabors Demolition said it brought the tower down within the confines of the job site and the destruction didn't impact any pedestrians or any of the surrounding buildings.

"Although we will miss witnessing the camaraderie encouraged by the Leaning Tower of Dallas, we look forward to turning the site at 2828 North Haskell Avenue over to De La Vega Development as they begin bringing The Central to life,” the statement concluded.

Later that day, Dallas funeral home Hughes Family Tribute Center posted an obituary for the tower on its Facebook page.

And two years later, we at WFAA remember a simpler time when a tower that couldn't come down stole the hearts of many across the Metroplex.

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