(Photo: A panoramic view of Belo Gardens Park in Downtown Dallas, which had its opening in May) Photo Credit to Tony Lauro via Dallasmomsblog.org     

By Jada Brazell     

The Dallas Downtown Parks Master Plan is making progress, but after eight years, many say it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

The initial parks plan, developed by Carter-Burgess and the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, was created in 2004. It was “almost a shotgun approach” that offered multiple options for park development, said Dustin Bullard, Cityscape and Urban Design Manager for Downtown Dallas, Inc.

The Carter-Burgess design team analyzed potential park sites that would include urban parks, plazas, open spaces and streetscape linkages. “The ultimate goal was to envision a series of signature parks within downtown that add identity and economic vibrancy to the heart of the city,” the report reads. 

The downtown park network consists of areas in several downtown districts as well as core parks and edge parks.

(Photo: The parks master plan will significantly increase the percentage of green space in Downtown Dallas, a prospect with numerous environmental and social benefits)

Bullard said his organization has worked with the city to execute the plan and has been instrumental in the development of Main Street Garden, Belo Garden and Klyde Warren Park (also called the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park), developed in that order.

“We have made quite a lot of progress to date in implementing that plan,” Bullard said.

The city now has its eye on John Carpenter Plaza, which isn’t addressed in the 2004 plan. John Carpenter Plaza lies on the eastern edge of downtown, flanked by roads that are up for construction. Bullard said the park will replace streets that will be removed, paving the way for more contiguous green space.

John Carpenter Plaza is a prime example of the need to revisit the 2004 plan. Like any growing and dynamic city, plans are constantly affected by population shifts, construction, redevelopment and other structural changes.

“As we work on new parks, we constantly look at that,” Bullard said. “The next step is to look at where we are and make sure we’re headed in a solid direction and that the park plan still makes sense.”

While plans will undoubtedly change, the city marches on using the current blueprint. For example, Dallas has purchased the land on which The Pacific Plaza would be built, though development is not yet funded.

Bullard said the current parks have shown great success, noting that they make downtown more livable and green and bring people out of their offices. “Dallas was lacking this rich urban fabric in the past,” he said.

Bullard encouraged Dallas residents to stay active in supporting public parks. At minimum, the public can show support by using existing parks, proving their demand. Individuals may also speak to their elected officials to voice concern or push for further development. According to Bullard this support can be crucial as parks are typically funded by private citizens or groups or via bond elections. Voting in such elections is key to transforming plan to reality.

“We’re very happy with the way the parks have grown,” he said. “We’re committed to not just getting them built but to making sure they’re successful and viable.”

Jada Brazell is a freelance writer who also consults for fashion- and art-based businesses on branding. She has written for the Odessa American and Global Fashion News, edited for the Texas Senate and RadioShack, and contributed to several magazines and newspapers in Central and South Texas.