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DART News Release

Media Relations Contact:
Morgan Lyons
Mark A. Ball

March 21, 2011

DART brings new life to historic maintenance building

The Monroe Shops building, located at Dallas Area Rapid Transit's (DART) Blue Line Illinois Station, will enter its next century of use in a way that could not have even been imagined when it opened as a train maintenance facility around 1914. On March 21 it becomes the new home of the DART Police Department.

The building on South Corinth Street Rd. has long been recognized as a historic treasure. But efforts to redevelop it for retail or other transit-oriented uses were unsuccessful, and the maintenance facility for the former Texas Interurban Railway has sat vacant for years.

With the DART Rail system slated to grow to 90 miles over the next few years, the number of DART police personnel will need to expand beyond its current force. Lt. James Foster was charged with leading the needs assessment for the DART Police Department. Together, with Steven Bourn, AIA, DART architect and project manager, and Ronald Maddox, DART Construction Engineering Manager, the team developed and executed a plan to rehabilitate the building and provide approximately 69,000 square feet to accommodate the police.

View a video from an Open House on Tuesday, April 5.
Included is a time lapse video of construction.

Bourn admits it was a challenge designing the sensitive conversion of an old trolley repair shop listed on the National Register of Historic Places into a 21st Century police headquarters. DART is applying for recognition of Monroe Shops as the agency's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building.

Monroe Shops was listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Secretary of Interior in 2007. The building was listed because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of architectural patterns reminiscent of Texas Interurban Railway era. The Interurban linked much of North Texas by passenger rail until 1948.

"Working with a historical building can be tricky, but DART's priority was to preserve the structure while making it useful to the needs of a growing transit system," Bourn adds.

The new $20 million facility now includes three floors of modern workspace, meeting rooms, staff offices, showers, lockers and an exercise facility.

Redesigning this historic structure for modern police use has been a labor of love for the architect. "How can you not be interested in a project named Monroe," Bourn jokes. "Besides, what is the value of a public building if it's just sitting there and no one can use it?"

DART Police Chief James Spiller has been watching Monroe Shops change shape little by little since construction began in July 2009 and is anxious to move into the historic structure, which was greatly expanded to accomplish his department's work.

"It's bigger, modern and more environmentally friendly. It will also enhance the efficiency of the DART police department by allowing room for growth and expansion, as the need arises," Spiller says. "When we started this project and broke ground, it was the first time that the officers felt like something was happening. When we finally get moved in it'll make a huge difference to them."

Nobody can remember how it got its name, but there is no denying that Monroe Shops played an important part in Dallas' transportation history according to Stephen Salin, DART Vice President of Rail Planning.

"It was the home of all heavy repair work to cars belonging to the Texas Electric Railway, or Interurban, until its final run in 1948," he says. "Prior to the arrival of the railway, Dallas mainly served as a prosperous agriculture-based town. That all changed due to the existence of the Interurban and this historic repair facility."

For more than three decades, the Interurban created transportation jobs, brought buyers to Dallas markets and workers to downtown over 226 miles of track on three lines that traveled to Denison, Sherman, Ennis, Corsicana, Hillsboro and Waco.

When the Interurban stopped taking daily care of 250 rail cars, their maintenance property became the home of such businesses as Fleming & Son Papermill, U-Haul Company, and the city of Dallas before DART acquired the abandoned building in April 1991 as part of the land acquisition for the southern Blue Line segment.

"When you look at this historical building it reminds you of the era of interurban rail travel, but now it will play two new roles; for law enforcement and as a catalyst for transit oriented development," Salin explains.

Monroe Shops was built south of the city of Dallas in an area known as Trinity Heights. It was historically populated with railroad workers who worked at the shops and spent their money with businesses that sprang up in the neighborhood.

Jack Wierzenski, DART Director of Economic Development, says having the original repair facility there almost 100 years ago helped the area to grow and prosper. He hopes the new Monroe Shops will have the same affect and be a catalyst for new development and reinvestment along the rail corridor in South Dallas.

"We have always considered our DART Rail stations as gateways to the community and the Monroe Shops at Illinois Station is no different," Wierzenski says. "Now, almost 100 years later, with DART moving into the neighborhood, we hope history repeats itself and we help renew economic growth all over again."

DART's presence, according to Wierzenski, could do just that. He said once the idea of growth and development takes hold in a community, it becomes a powerful motivator for change.

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