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Parkland grows in Downtown Dallas

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

By Charlie McCabe

Interactive water fountain in Carpenter Park

In between visits to Salt Lake City and Tulsa in mid-September, I stopped in Dallas. My wife, Sara's, parents are longtime residents, and my mother-in-law is a fan of parks and public spaces, so she and Sara and I set out on a Sunday morning tour. Dallas is in a park creation and expansion boom, fueled by bonds from their 2017 election as well as private philanthropy. The Trust for Public Land is expanding park land in South Oak Cliff, the Woodall Rogers Park Foundation is expanding Klyde Warren Park, and the city of Dallas is rebuilding, improving, and expanding parks and trails across the city.

Seating and shade in Pacific Park

And then there's the Parks for Downtown Dallas nonprofit. Founded and staffed by the Belo Foundation (Dallas Morning News), they have been working in partnership with the City of Dallas to expand the amount of parkland across downtown. They've refurbished one park, built and opened three more, and are at work on a fourth, slated to open in 2023. They acquire parcels (often parking lots combined with old rights-of-way and in a few cases, smaller pocket parks) to create orginal landscapes with amenities for people to use and enjoy. The newest is Carpenter Park, which also has a dog park, amazing restrooms, a repositioned public sculpture, seating, and native plant gardens.

Gardens in Carpenter Park

Dog park, using the overhead freeway ramp as a shade structure (a good idea for Texas summers)

My favorite is the smallest. At .78 acres, West End Square is surrounded by residences, retail, and restaurants. As the picture above shows, it was once a surface parking lot. Now, the design includes landscaped gardens and a small interactive fountain, but the heart of the park is a pergola structure with fans, seating, tables (including a 50-foot-long wooden work table with built-in charging mats), and of course, Wifi. While it was quiet for a Sunday morning, it still had foot traffic from nearby residents as well as patrons from nearby restaurants. (There are some swings that were installed along one side of the park, called the porch, that have been temporarily removed for reworking.)

Parks for Downtown Dallas has raised funds for the design and construction of the parks, matching public funds from the 2017 bonds used for parkland acquisition. More importantly, they've committed to raising a substantial endowment ($25 million) for operations and maintenance, which is tackled by Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI), the local business improvement district, who have clean team and safety staff visiting daily. DDI is also organizing programming and events, working with City of Dallas. For the four downtown parks project, $39.4 million has come from city bond funds, while Parks for Downtown Dallas is raising $56 million in private funds.

© Copyright 2022, Charlie McCabe Consulting LLC

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