Museum Tower Update: Is Bad Publicity the Media’s Fault?

Published June 27, 2012 by Candy Evans

Interesting stories out of the Dallas Morning News and really, everywhere, today on Museum Tower. While we think the two parties, the Nasher Museum and Museum Tower, have been negotiating diligently under the capable eyes of Tom Luce, we first get word today that negotiations may have all but broken down, and that litigation may take place. But then we learn that no, negotiations ARE taking place, reporting was wrong and the letter the story was based on was just CYA. Or something. Herewith:

“An attorney for the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, Gary Lawson, blamed public criticism for the failure of the talks and threatening the $200 million building’s viability.

Purchasers of condominiums have canceled contracts and sales of additional units have been “substantially adversely affected,” Lawson stated in a letter he provided to The Dallas Morning News.”

“Blamed public criticism.” Now there’s an interesting phrase. Is Mr. Lawson saying that media stories are adversely affecting sales? I think he is:

“It is reasonable to anticipate that litigation will take place within the very near term, days if not weeks away,” Lawson wrote.

Sure sounds like a lawsuit:

Richard Tettamant, the pension fund’s administrator, confirmed in an email message Tuesday morning that a lawsuit is being considered. “I believe that the Nasher and the Pension System wish to resolve this issue amicably,” he said in an email, “but we have to protect the Pension System’s and Museum Tower’s legal rights.”

And now the Nasher is not the only one complaining about Museum Tower’s glare: a resident at One Arts Plaza is complaining that the mirrored siding on the new tower gives her a “sharp morning glare that lasts just too long, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.” That is, only when she looks towards the tower from her home. It appears the resident, Petey Parker, works from her home if you look at the photos on her website.

OK, hang on. Later in the day, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System issued a response saying the DMN letter is inaccurate or out of text:

“The Dallas Morning News article about pending litigation is inaccurate. As a result of the Dallas Morning News’ numerous open record requests, we asked the Texas Attorney General to review parts of each request as allowed by law. A copy of that letter was required to be sent to the Dallas Morning News. The letter to the Attorney General is simply a prudent and conservative measure as allowed by law in response to the threat of litigation against Museum Tower as speculated in the press. More importantly, we agree with Mr. Luce’s statement today that last week’s discussions were successful, cordial and professional. We’re confident that the process will continue and we’ll have a positive outcome. The System has not changed its mission to try to resolve this matter in a reasonable and professional manner.”

That’s what I thought: CYA. And Tom Luce says things are (no pun intended) cooking:

“The Nasher Sculpture Center and Museum Tower have worked together in a series of meetings, most recently on Friday, June 22, to develop a number of potential solutions that will mitigate the glare from Museum Tower. Together, we have identified several design solutions that we are continuing to study and discuss. The process has been collegial and professional, with technical teams from both sides working together, and I believe we are close to reaching resolution.”

But then… then over at the Dallas Observer, another letter from Mr. Lawson to the Texas Attorney General spells it out: the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is really ticked off at the local media. They think the reporting is biased, not just slanted towards the Nasher and architect Renzo Piano, but hinting the reporters are embedded with them:

“The Dallas Morning News has engaged in a coordinated campaign to move public opinion toward the Nasher side of that agenda, because your own reporter openly stated he, and by projection your paper, hold the rule of law in disdain. The Dallas Morning News, by this unethical act, has declared its advocacy agenda to influence public opinion with such pejorative fervor against our client in an attempt to force them to change their building.”

There is deep criticism of the way this story has been reported, saying that objective journalism has not taken place. Interestingly, I met with another developer a few weeks ago who told me, and showed me, how he had been mis-quoted in a Dallas Morning News story and when he confronted the reporter, the reporter said well, that was my interpretation of what you said. Mr. Lawson says no one has reported on “other Renzo Piano projects elsewhere around the world that have been embroiled in controversy over his aggressive and purposeful designs that disregard the surrounding community. Likewise they have failed to explore Piano’s flawed analysis of what future effects his buildings may project upon the immediate area.”

It’s hard to be objective as a reporter, really hard. Do you think the Dallas news media has objectively reported on the Museum Tower glass problem? Is the Dallas Morning News (and D Magazine) “not reporting the news, it has and continues to engage in active and unethical advocacy, gleefully acting as a change agent of the Nasher and Piano that is forcing the mediation into failure”? I think both are certainly obligated to tell the story, and report on it — that’s their duty. But have they been biased, or balanced?


— Daily Local Real Estate Dish By Dallas Real Estate Insider — Candy Evans at