Dallas consistently ranks in the middle in the Trust For Public Land’s ParkScore index, which rates park space. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. City officials, however, hope to change that. The Belo Foundation last week gave Dallas $30 million to build four parks downtown.
Willis Winters, director of the city’s Park and Recreation department, says there’s several reasons for the interest in downtown parks.
Interview Highlights: Willis Winters…
…On why the city is focusing on downtown parks:
“Part of the reason is as recently as 20 years ago, only a handful of people lived downtown. Over the years, the population has grown. Those people need green space and open space just as people who live in residential neighborhoods. Only in the last 10 years, have we begun to provide green space and recreational space to the people that actually live downtown, so it’s very important from that standpoint.
"Also, from an economic development standpoint, we know and can document the increase in real estate values of properties that are adjacent to parks or fall within a certain walking distance of downtown parks. There’s a huge return on investment.”
...On relying on public-private partnerships to fund parks:
“I want to caution everyone that private funding and donations should not be to replace public funding that’s already there. It needs to be in addition to public funding. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that the city would be able to provide $70 million for downtown parks.”
…On future Dallas deck parks:
“The good news is that deck parks are free land. We don’t have to buy land. The bad news is there’s an extraordinary cost with decking over the freeway. Now we’re engaged with discussions with TxDOT through the CityMAP process when the rebuild these freeways around downtown and the Southern Gateway, they can make it easier to deck the park in the future.
"There’s opportunities for freeway decking in several places. One is in the Southern Gateway area on I-35, south of downtown, and the Dallas Zoo. I’d love to connect the Farmer’s Market District with Dallas Heritage Village. I think the need for a deck park that connects the Convention Center area with South Side on Lamar along the Lamar Street corridor is another location that makes sense.
"We don’t need to build another Klyde Warren in these areas. Each of these other deck parks should be aligned with the potential that already exists.”
Listen to Willis Winters talk more about parks -- parks in North vs. South Dallas, the future of Fair Park, and the role of architecture in planning a park.