Dallas CBD Vertiport

A Tour of Dallas’ Huge Downtown Heliport

Venture thru Downtown Dallas, and you’re bound to see quite a few things – historic buildings, City Hall, and skyscrapers everywhere you look, just to name a few. Head several streets down into the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and you might catch a glimpse of some trade show or expo going on. But something else unknown to most lies atop the roof of the Convention Center – the Central Business District(CBD) Vertiport, considered to be the world’s largest urban elevated heliport. After reading about this unique facility on the Dallas Airport System website, I had to go see it for myself. A huge heliport? In Downtown Dallas?

Built in the ’90s, the original idea was for air carrier service via rotorcraft. Much like the airport helicopter shuttle that’s been set up between Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and central Tokyo, planners envisioned a future where you could arrive at the Vertiport and board a helicopter to DFW Airport, or even other cities like Austin or San Antonio. After it was built, the idea never came to fruition, and today the Vertiport remains largely unused except for the few privately-owned helicopters that stop in every so often.

Showing me around was Rick Ellis, one of the Senior Airport Operations Officers for the Dallas Airport System, the City of Dallas department that owns and maintains the facility. To get up to the Vertiport was pretty interesting in and of itself. After meeting at street level, I followed Rick thru a series of curving ramps and security gates that went all the way up to the flight deck level, passing by the loading dock used by the Convention Center along the way.

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One of the entrances leading up to the CBD Vertiport.
Dallas Convention Center loading dock area
One of the loading docks for the Convention Center, as seen on the way up.
Dallas CBD Vertiport
A sign points the way to one of the last ramps up to the flight deck level.

Upon getting to the top, my first reaction was “Wow, this is much bigger than I thought!”

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The Vertiport flight deck, looking towards the southeast.

As a fixed-wing pilot, many of the helipad markings were relatively foreign to me. Rick explained that there are two landing spots up here, where rotorcraft coming in must land at. From there, they can then taxi into one of the five parking spots. With a dual-deck design, the CBD Vertiport is capable of handling three helicopters and two tiltrotor aircraft(like the Boeing V-22) at the same time.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
One of two landing spots. Methodist Hospital, visible in the far distance, also sees quite a bit of helicopter traffic. Together with the usual airplane traffic, this forms a pretty busy region of Dallas’ airspace.

Why are there numbers on the pavement? Rick said that those indicated the maximum weight that could be supported at that particular landing point. In contrast, numbers in front of a runway indicate the number of that runway, which also aligns to the magnetic compass heading.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
Numbers on the landing spots indicate the maximum weight supported.

Up here, there is also an amazing view of Downtown Dallas!

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Of course, I had to get my photo taken.

Next, Rick and I headed to see the terminal building. Rick mentioned that the Vertiport has been used in several movies and TV shows – and it certainly fits the bill for some interesting filming!

Dallas CBD Vertiport
The terminal/lobby.

Inside the terminal was a pretty basic setup, with couches, restrooms, and an unstaffed attendant desk. Before the tour, I had expected something a bit more modern and well-equipped, but this setup made sense given the low traffic numbers seen here.

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Dallas CBD Vertiport

On the walls, various photos of helicopters served as artwork.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

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A small office hosted some communications radios and other mechanical equipment. Close by, a sign-in log for arriving aircraft was also there, the sheet only one line full.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Dallas CBD Vertiport

Rick and I then headed down the elevators to see what was on the ground floor.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
The elevators leading to the ground floor.

Downstairs, there wasn’t much to see except the empty parking lot for Vertiport users and staff. Security gates ensure that folks parked here won’t have to worry about their vehicles being broken into or vandalized.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

One thing I found neat was this turnstile, which led directly to the DART Convention Center Station, served by the Red and Blue lines. Literally, you could take the light rail from your apartment in downtown Plano all the way to the Convention Center station, and board your helicopter airline flight to Oklahoma City. Well, at least that was the initial idea. I guess if you have your own helicopter, that’s still doable.

Dallas CBD Vertiport
This turnstile connects the Vertiport to the DART station.
DART Convention Center Station
The DART Convention Center station.

Wrapping up the tour back upstairs, Rick showed me the side catwalk area of the Vertiport terminal, which looked out to a huge parking lot full of trailers used in Convention Center expositions, as well as massive cooling towers below.

Dallas CBD Vertiport

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Although the facilities here are quite nice, the main problem plaguing the Vertiport is lack of traffic. I saw so much potential here – yet, the place sits deserted. Hopefully down the road, the City of Dallas starts a revitalization initiative to bring traffic here – done correctly, I’m sure it would be successful!

Dallas CBD Vertiport
Looking out onto the flight deck from the terminal.

Special thanks to the folks at the Dallas Airport System for making this post possible!

Titche-Goettinger Building

Straying Off the Beaten Path in Downtown Dallas – Exploring the Titche-Goettinger Building

Exploring history first-hand and seeing places that are long forgotten is one of my favorite pastimes. This summer, I partnered up with Beth Schon from the lifestyle blog WiseMommies and set out to explore Downtown Dallas and the many notable buildings that make up the cityscape. One of the most notable places we checked out was the Titche-Goettinger building, located at the corner of Elm and St. Paul.  The former location of one of the most well-known department stores in Dallas, the name might sound completely foreign, or it just may bring back fond memories.

Titche-Goettinger Building

Founded in 1902 by Edward Titche and Max Goettinger, this department store sold everything from apparel to housewares to fine china. This building wasn’t their original location- it was actually their third!  The business started off on the corner of Elm and Murphy. In just two years time, they had outgrown their current location, and the store moved to their second location off Main Street. By 1928, Titche’s had outgrown that, so they moved into their flagship store. Eventually, Dillard’s took over the company in 1987. The building was not included in the sale and was closed not too long after. It sat abandoned until 1997, when developers renovated the inside and converted it into loft-style apartments.

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Titche-Goettinger Building
The lobby of the Titche-Goettinger building.

Arriving, we met up with Stephanie Tutt, the assistant manager of the leasing office who offered to show us around. The first place Stephanie showed us was one of the apartments on the second floor.

Titche-Goettinger Building

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One cool thing about here was that many historical aspects of the building have been preserved, even after the extensive renovation! In this particular unit, that cylinder-shaped thing is actually an old rolling door unit dating back to the days of the department store.

Titche-Goettinger Building

A vintage fire protection device of some kind hung from the wall. Maybe a fire pump?

Titche-Goettinger Building

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Architectural features, such as the support beams and an exposed brick wall, were all original to the building and part of the design.

Titche-Goettinger Building

Stephanie explained that there are over 50 unique floor plans, all different in some way due to the historical nature of the building. At a 98% occupancy rate, the residents seem to like it here!

Just outside the apartment was a door that said “Fitting Room.” It piqued my curiosity, and we went in to take a look.

It turned out that room was the community gym. Not sure if back in the day of Titche’s it served as a fitting room, but nevertheless it seemed to have been repurposed well. Much like the unit we just toured, there was a lot of exposed brick and beams, all original to the building.

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Back down on the first floor, Stephanie showed us probably one of the coolest things in the building: an antique Otis elevator that hadn’t be removed.

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In those days, there wasn’t air conditioning, so there was a fan to keep the air inside (somewhat) circulated.

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The listing of the many departments in the store was still on the wall.

Titche-Goettinger Building

On top of the elevator bank was the Titche-Goettinger crest. Just looking at it conveyed thoughts of a simpler time, when going to shop at a department store was an experience on its own.

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The crest was one of many artifacts that remained in the building and are on display. A plaque marking this place as a World War II blood donor center was in the leasing office.

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This was one of the original door handles, complete with the store’s initials.

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In the lobby were various floor plans of the original store. Not sure if these were originals, but they were done pretty well(from an amateur’s perspective), and depicted the different rooms and departments of this huge store.

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Something else Beth and I came across was one of the store account books. In a glass case close to the center of the lobby, it was cool to see what folks used to keep track of purchases and returns before the days of the computer.

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Some of the books used to keep track of store finances.

What did customers who used to visit this elegant department store have to say about it? Click here to read a testimonial over at Beth’s blog WiseMommies, as well as learn about the importance of knowing the past and understanding one’s history!

In conclusion, although I had heard about Titche’s in the past, I never knew it had such an expansive storefront until now. Almost all of these buildings in the downtown area have an interesting past, and it was cool to learn about the history behind this otherwise unassuming old structure.