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Dallas plans to give downtown a facelift with four new parks

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by Tashika Varma

The city’s Downtown Parks Master Plan, which was originally created in 2004, provides Dallas with a network of new parks, plazas and streetscapes, with a priority on four parks — Carpenter Plaza, Pacific Plaza, West End Plaza and Harwood Park.

West End Plaza proposed plans.

Camille Brown and Nashla Kalifa sat across from each other at Klyde Warren Park during lunchtime on a recent afternoon. The pair chatted away while eating lunch from one of the nearby food trucks. Brown and Kalifa enjoyed the fresh air, the beautiful weather, and the busy atmosphere.

“This park is such a great open space that is much needed in Dallas,” Kalifa said.  “It really ties Dallas’ uptown and downtown together.”

Klyde Warren Park, which opened four months ago, is just one of several new parks to be built around downtown. The city’s Downtown Parks Master Plan, originally created in 2004, hopes to increase downtown’s green space. The updated plan provides Dallas with a network of new parks, plazas and streetscapes, with a priority on four larger parks: Carpenter Plaza, Pacific Plaza, Harwood Park and West End Plaza.

The plan, which also calls for many smaller parks, will cost about between $80 and $100 million, according to news reports. The plan has no projected timeline because the completion of each park depends on when and if they will be funded, said Michael Hellman, park planning manager for the city.

“We’re hoping through private partnerships and capital fund programs that funding will come through,” he said. “Then we can go ahead with building the parks and completing the plan.”

Hellman said the city anticipates that the new parks will boost economic development, create greener spaces, and encourage more public transportation.

“We hope that parks will improve the quality of life and encourage people to want to live, work and recreate in downtown,” he said.

Compared to the downtowns in Texas cities like Houston and San Antonio, Dallas has a significantly lower number of parks, say city officials. Once the plan is completed and implemented, downtown Dallas will have almost 100 acres of park area, beating out San Antonio but still falling slightly behind Houston.

Lauren Smart, the media contact for Klyde Warren Park, said there are two main goals of that park: to connect Uptown and Downtown and give Dallas a place for gathering.

Carpenter-Pacific Plaza

“One of the things that has been missing from Dallas is great city parks,” she said.

People will want to spend time at the new parks and plazas, Smart believes. Compared to parks like Bryant Park in New York City, Smart says that Dallasites are quick to adapt to new parks and use them daily. The opening weekend of Klyde Warren Park, for instance, had roughly 40,000 visitors, says Smart.

 

“It took five years for people to fully use Bryant Park, but within the first week of opening the attendance for Klyde Warren Park was more than we could imagine,” she said.

The city’s parks plan has come a long way with the completion of Belo Garden, Main Street Garden and Klyde Warren Park, but there is still a lot of work to be done, says Hellman.

“We cannot be complacent,” he said. “We must set the next priorities and achieve those goals.”

The updated plan will expand the current Carpenter Plaza, located between Pacific Avenue and Live Oak Street, to an 8.7-acre park by removing roadways and expanding the green space. Carpenter Plaza will be paired with the nearby Pacific Plaza, a 3.5-acre park that will be built to serve the growing residential population in that area. The West End Plaza will be a smaller park, a little shy of an acre, in the West End Historic District. Parks officials hope to add a green wall behind the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant, with doorways so that people can access the restaurant from the plaza.

Farmer’s Market

“I think the new plaza will help business not only here but for the entire West End Historic District,” said Todd Lynch, manager of Spaghetti Warehouse.

Although these three parks are a big part of the plan, the city’s priority is Harwood Park, says Hellman. With the Farmers Market nearby and the growing residential population, there is a need for parks in that area. In addition to a park, the city also plans to build a recreation facility near the Farmers Market called Taylor Fields, and a playground area called Bow-Tie Park. There is a lot of underutilized land in that area and Dallas plans to turn it into a vital community resource, says Hellman.

Although some of these plans are displacing surface parking lots and roads, with each park’s plan there is a parking study with underground or above ground parking garage options.

“We also want to encourage people to use public transportation like the DART,” Hellman said.

Tashika Varma is a senior at Southern Methodist University majoring in communication studies and minoring in journalism. She can be reached at tvarma@smu.edu.

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