Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old cracker plant up for grabs as one of a kind Dallas office location - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Started in 1902, the former Brown Cracker & Candy Co. plant was enlarged several times. (Peloton)

For six years Dallas’ West End Marketplace building has sat vacant on the northwest corner of downtown.

 
The 7-story brick building at Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Record Street is more than a century old and for 20 years housed a popular retail, restaurant and entertainment complex.

 
Property brokers at Dallas’ Peloton Commercial are now hoping to transform the building into an office complex.

 
The real estate firm is marketing the 237,300-square-foot landmark to companies that would like a one-of-a-kind address.

 
“We are trying to paint the vision of how that building can be a great office environment,” said Joel Pustmueller, one of Peloton’s founding partners. “We’ve had a lot of success at capturing tenants that like cool and unique space.”

 
You can’t get much more unique than the West End Marketplace.

 
Built in 1902 for the Brown Cracker & Candy Co. â€" “the largest bakers of crackers and fancy confections in the Southwest” â€" the buildings started out as a plant and distribution center for food products.

 
More than 1,000 people worked in the complex making cookies, chocolate bonbons and peppermint sticks.

 
The buildings caught fire several times, including a 1912 blaze attributed to mice gnawing on matches. When they could have dined on all those crackers?

 
Bonnie’s beau Clyde Barrow is said to have worked at the plant for a while before turning to more profitable (at least for a while) bank robbing.

 
In the 1940s, Brown Cracker was bought out by Sunshine Biscuits and eventually disappeared from downtown.

A vintage postcard shows the buildings near the turn of the 20th Century.

Later the West End buildings were used for other types of storage and manufacturing before winding up empty in the early 1980s.

 
In 1986, the West End complex was renovated into Texas’ first festival marketplace â€" remember those?

 
For a while the buildings also housed the Dallas outlet for theme restaurant Planet Hollywood.

 
But by 2006, business at the West End Marketplace had dwindled to the point the building’s owner, a private Dallas-based real estate investment partnership, decided to shut the place down.

 
A 10-screen movie theater on the top floors was long closed before then.
“We are studying alternative uses for the building â€" each of which would be significantly more productive than retail,” a company spokesman said at the time.

 
Since the closing the owners have looked at plans to use the building for apartments or a vocational school. But so far the property has remained empty.

 
Peloton is hoping to attract new interest to the deal.
“They are great buildings,” said Pustmueller.

A September 1923 article in The Dallas Morning News talks about the $350,000 addition to the plant. (DMN archives)

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