The Fort Worth Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission unanimously decided Sept. 29 that the historic T&P Warehouse can be restored and continue to stand as a part of the city’s heritage.
The decision means the owner will have to work with city staff to create a timely, comprehensive repair plan.
Commissioners noted that engineers behind the city’s recent structural inspection report and staff both had confidence the warehouse could be repaired, which helped with their decision.
“We’ve seen the engineer’s report and their estimation. The repairs can be undertaken and the building rehabilitated, as far as the scope of their analysis was. Then we have city of Fort Worth staff saying basically the same thing,” Commissioner Rick Herring said. “So for me, personally, that tells me what I need to know.”
As part of the commission’s vote, the owner, Ola Assem, will be required to prepare a comprehensive action plan that addresses, within the next three years, all of the issues identified in the structural assessment. The proposed solutions should be permanent and consistent with standards set by the U.S. government for historic properties.
The commission’s vote gives the city the power to compel the property owner to address the issues identified in the report and their causes under the city’s minimum building standards ordinance. If the issues are not addressed in a timely manner, the city can enforce the owner to take action through fines, liens, as well as set up a compliance agreement with specific deadlines to meet.
Assem was not present at the meeting. Her son, Nadeem Shoukry, was in attendance but did not speak. A self-described friend of the family, Philip O’Hara, was also present and spoke on behalf of the owner.
Shoukry declined to answer questions from the Fort Worth Report after the meeting.
O’Hara said that because Assem has plans and is working toward completely restoring the building, she has been slow to make repairs that affect the historic integrity of the warehouse.
“She’s saying, if you go through the repairs piecemeal, the substantive repairs start taking away from the integrity of the historical methods,” O’Hara told the commissioners. “To do it twice, you’re probably less likely to get the desired result.”
The city sent the T&P Warehouse case to the commission several times over the years to determine whether the structure at 401 W. Lancaster Ave. can be saved and remain part of the city’s historic architectural heritage. City staff noted in its most recent report that the building could be rehabilitated despite its long history of code violations dating back to at least 2002.
The commission was supposed to determine the building’s fate Sept. 11, but the meeting was canceled because of a lack of quorum.
The structure in question is considered substandard and hazardous, according to the staff’s report. However, the report notes the structure is in fair condition, despite falling and chipping concrete and rusted rebar.
Assem has been under pressure from city officials and community members to renovate the property since purchasing it in 1997. The owner received city incentives in 2008 to redevelop the historic site but lost them in 2019 because of a lack of progress toward redeveloping the building.
In a letter to the owner of the warehouse dated July 2022, city staff notes that “the signs of demolition by neglect are indisputable.”
A follow-up letter dated July 2023 reinforced that the building is still under demolition by neglect and requested Assem develop a timeline to make repairs to the site based on the report.
However, the owner asserts that a lack of coordination with the various public projects — including the Hemphill-Lamar Connector on the west end of the building — around the T&P Warehouse has caused the project delays, according to a letter submitted to the commission by Assem.
Assem writes it would have been ideal to have someone champion the redevelopment of the warehouse by highlighting the impact that public projects like the Hemphill-Lamar Connector had on the historic site.
“Those, which, among other reasons not due to the owner, despite of all the owner’s efforts, prevented the T&P redevelopment timely and contributed to the property’s aging condition,” Assem notes in the letter.
The warehouse has been on the city’s endangered list eight times, said Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth.
Tracy said having the engineering report was a positive move toward actually identifying what needs to be done to fix up the building, something past commissioners and members of the public did not have.
“I think the engineer report was a step further than they did five years ago or so,” Tracy said.
As for the grievances from the owner about working with the city, those will always be there, Tracy said. However, public confidence in Assem’s ability to give the warehouse a second life is falling.
“It begs the question, ‘Why don’t they sell it?’” Tracy said. “I don’t think she’s going to pull it off, but maybe she’ll surprise us.”
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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