Bush Joins Tear-Down Brigade

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Down in Texas, former President George W. and Laura Bush have joined a dwindling crowd: the home tear-down brigade.

Though national home-razing stats are not available, the National Association of Realtors estimates that 75,000 homes are torn down annually. The most house-busting dust flies in suburban Chicago, the San Francisco Bay area, Palm Springs, Calif., and Washington, D.C., according to Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

But we can thank the Great Recession (and preservationists) for one thing: Home razing has dropped almost as much as some home prices, about 20 percent, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Tear-downs are not uncommon in affluent Dallas neighborhoods, where appraisers routinely give non-updated homes a 30-year shelf life before functional obsolescence creeps in. It's also not uncommon for some homeowners to knit together parcels of land to create multi-acre estates, especially in Bush's Preston Hollow, an affluent Dallas neighborhood well known for such gentrified acreage estates. During the boom, Dallas home demolition companies say they were tearing down two to three homes per week, especially in the more affluent sections of the city. Now they're lucky to bust a home every other week. Cost of demolishing a 5,000-square-foot home in Dallas? Between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on the foundation.

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This past Monday, January 4, a Dallas television news station reported on the demolition of 10151 Daria Place, the 4,684-square-foot ranch-style home the Bushes purchased in December 2008, shortly after they bought their current residence at 10141 Daria Place. The actual home scraping may have taken place back in November. Reason for the news delay? The Bushes live on a gated cul de sac of one-acre homes, now accessible only to residents and through personal invitation. In other words, almost impossible to get in. It's not yet clear whether the Bushes plan to expand their present home, an 8,500-square-foot soft contemporary built in 1959 (when most of the homes on the street were built) but extensively updated by Dallas entrepreneur and art collector Dan Boeckman, the previous owner. Or maybe they'll just expand their 1.134-acre property. Dallas realtors say they knew the 5-bedroom, 6-bath brick ranch was destined for the wrecking ball, and the 1.26-acre lot is not prime for building since a creek runs along the northern edge of the property. Both lots back up to the 24-plus-acre estate of Dallas billionaire Thomas O. Hicks, who owns the Texas Rangers.

I've long speculated that another home at the very entrance to Daria Place had some connection to the former president. 10121 Daria Drive is a sprawling 4,505-square-foot property smack at the southern intersection of Daria Drive and Daria Place. It's owned by Azalea Enterprises PS LTD, but the tax bill is sent to a John Luther King, Jr., who lives in another affluent Dallas neighborhood called Highland Park. Mr. King is a successful businessman, oil man and big Republican party donor. He quietly bought 10121 Daria Place in September 2008. He subsequently leased it to the Boeckmans, which allowed the former president and his wife to expedite their move into 10141 Daria Place shortly after he left office just over a year ago. Nice to have such generous friends, no?

What will Mr. King do with the 5,784 square feet he bought for about $1.2 million at 10121 Daria: lease it, move in the men in black, or tear it down and build himself a mansion two doors down from the former president?

(The photograph of 10151 Daria Place, above, was taken in December of 2008, before the Bushes owned the property.)
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