Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Biking The Trinity Trail Looking At Dismal Skyscrapers Thinking About CatsPaw, MLK & GG

Yale Dean Of Architecture Designed Skyscrapers
A week ago today I blogged a blogging titled On The Dried Out Tandy Hills Looking At The Upgraded Tarrant County Courthouse & Bass Family Damage To Downtown Fort Worth.

Basically I was opining about the Bass Family, and Ed Bass, in particular, and how I saw the Bass impact on downtown Fort Worth.

Today, whilst biking the Trinity Trail this subject was brought back to the forefront of my consciousness when I was fairly close to a pair of skyscrapers I'd opined about.

Last week's blogging generated some commentary from three different commentors whose opinions I highly value, CatsPaw, MLK and GG.

I'd suggested that the architect who designed those aforementioned skyscrapers must have been a C Student and were reflective of Bass Bad Taste.

CatsPaw then had this to say.....

My goodness, you're cranky today. Your "C-student" was quite highly-regarded and a former dean of the Yale School of Architecture. I first came to Fort Worth in 1977. City Center went up between 1978 - 1983. In the late 70s and early 80s, downtown had gotten rather dismal. I used to work in the old Continental National Bank building (now gone) and often had lunch at the Richelieu Cafe (gone) or at the restaurant in the Blackstone Hotel (now the Marriott) where the waitresses were about 80 if they were a day. We hung out after work hours at the old Daddio's where the Flying Saucer is presently. That area was pretty rough and if there had been sagebrush and tumble weeds, they would have been blowing along Main Street after 5 pm. Regardless of one's view of the Bass family or some of the buildings or development, there's really no question that they have been uniquely instrumental in the revival of downtown.

I first saw Fort Worth in August of 1980. I do remember the downtown being very dismal. And skyscraper-free. At least I do not remember there being any sort of skyline back then.

And then MLK disagreed with me....

Durango, I rarely disagree with your observations, but I'll have to object to your obvious dislike of the Bass family. I lived in Fort Worth when it was not a place to be, nothing to do, no one living down there. Ed Bass built Caravan of Dreams, an excellent music venue which closed a few years ago (still crying about this). He realized he wanted a place to live downtown, so he built Sundance the urban pioneers came and made downtown FTW a great place to live/work/play. I think Fort Worth owes quite a bit to our benefactors. Whereas they do own most of downtown or fund most of the progress there, they do have excellent taste and have Fort Worth's best interest at heart.

Now, we must keep in mind that I saw something like Caravan of Dreams from a totally different perspective than someone who lived in Fort Worth during the dismal years. I read the hype about Caravan of Dreams soon upon arrival. When I finally made it to the Sundance Square parking lots to check it out I just sort of thought it was strange and tacky. The geodesic cactus garden dome seemed real odd to me. Still does.

Only recently, thanks to Wikipedia, did I learn that that geodesic dome, along with the now defunct Caravan of Dreams, is yet one more thing Fort Worth has Ed Bass to thank, or blame for. I did not connect Ed Bass to the Arizona Biosphere II Geodesic domes debacle til I read the Wikipedia article.

GG, while appreciating all the Bass family has done to Fort Worth, had some issues regarding the billionaires...

I agree that the billionaire Bass family has done a lot for revitalizing downtown Fort Worth. The problem I have with Sundance Square is all the government tax handouts they have gotten in the form of TIFs and sales tax rebates over the years. And they are still going to the trough for another $11 million in TIF money and $2.5 million in city sales tax rebates for the new buildings that will be near the new public, I mean, private plaza. I'm amazed at how the public simply ignores government handouts to billionaires, but gets outraged if some poor person gets a housing voucher or welfare benefit. If the Bass family really has Fort Worth's best interest at heart, they wouldn't be asking for all this public tax money for their private projects. It's not like $2.5 million over 15 years means a whole lot to a billionaire. But it could certainly help pay for fixing/maintaining public pools, improving rather than cutting library funding, and giving city workers some of the salary back that they lost in furloughs, to name a few examples. As a FW outsider, I don't think this 'tax taking' is acceptable behavior for billionaires who own most of downtown.

Regarding my opinion about the Bass family contribution to the development of downtown Fort Worth. My problem with this is I see it as a not a good thing if one family has this level of influence over how a town develops. MLK thinks the Bass's have excellent taste. While I don't.

Taste is a subjective thing.

While the Bass Performance Hall may be an acoustic marvel, aesthetically, to my eyes, it is an out of place eyesore with ridiculous giant angels stuck to its side blowing horns at the Barnes & Noble across the street.

When Ed Bass complained about the sunken plaza design of the downtown Tarrant County College campus, that complaint set in motion, it seemed to me, the torpedoing of that project, one that I opined might actually give Fort Worth its first iconic building that people in other parts of the planet might recognize as being Fort Worth.

Unlike that pair of Bass skyscrapers designed by a Yale School of Architecture dean.

I also do not like the Bass tendency to slap their name on the buildings they help bring about. Like the Bass Performance Hall, or the Bass name slapped on to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum building.

Additionally, I have a problem with the idea that Fort Worth needed these particular benefactors to fix its apparently dismal downtown. Would not a more democratic process be preferable? If you removed the Bass influence from Fort Worth, do you really think downtown Fort Worth would still be a dismal mess in 2012?

And for all the supposed improvement brought to downtown Fort Worth, courtesy of Bass intervention, the town is still the biggest in America without a single downtown department store. Still totally dead on the biggest shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving.

Without a benefactor playing Big Daddy to Fort Worth's collective Big Babies, might Fort Worth not have managed to figure out how to put on its Big Boy Pants all on its own?

Instead, in Fort Worth you have this weird mentality where a Good Ol' Boy Network runs the town like some sort of private fiefdom, for the benefit of all the little people.

It is this weird mentality, in my opinion, that gives rise, in this town, to strange aberrations from the way a normal town operates, giving rise to abominations like the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle. A plan hatched by the Good Ol' Boy Network, in cahoots with the local corrupt congresswoman, who got her ne-er do well, unqualified son, the job of running the almost billion dollar project.

I drove Fort Worth's booming West 7th Avenue yesterday. Did all that growth come about from Bass help? Or private enterprise?

Fort Worth's downtown has the largest percentage of land used as parking lots of any big city in America.

Who owns most of the parking lots? The Bass Family.

Land is too valuable to use as parking lots in a vibrant downtown. I wonder what could possibly be done to bring some of that booming West 7th level of dynamic change to downtown Fort Worth?

I would not be so bold (or rude) as to suggest evicting the Bass Family from downtown Fort Worth might be a good place to start.

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