Woodall Rodgers Park “Groundmaking”

Yesterday, I attended the “groundmaking” for the Woodall Rodgers Park, a 5.2 acre deck park that will be constructed above the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets.

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation (the non-profit that has raised private funds for the park and which will operate and maintain the park).  Over the last several years, I’ve worked with the Foundation to ensure that the park was included in the 2006 bond program, to make Harwood Street pedestrian-only within the park, and to coordinate with surrounding stakeholders.  In 2006, I joined them in visiting Millennium Park in Chicago and Bryant Park in New York City.  In addition to touring the parks, we visited with community leaders who had been key to the parks’ creation.

The Real Estate Council sponsored a breakfast before the groundmaking ceremony.  TREC has been instrumental in the park’s creation — originating the concept and providing seed money.  The breakfast featured Tony Jones (pictured), Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who gave a very engaging presentation on “Millennium Park, Chicago: Art, Entertainment and Economics, a model for Woodall Rodgers Park and Downtown Dallas.”

You can check out some pictures from the breakfast and groundmaking as well as from our 2006 trip.

Woodall Rodgers Park

On Saturday, I attended a public meeting at the Nasher Sculpture Center about the Woodall Rogers Park. The plan is to create a deck park on top of Woodall Rogers freeway between Uptown and Downtown. The park would span from Pearl to Akard in four sections. The first three sections, from Pearl to St. Paul, are the priority. Check out the presentation (17.5 MB) from the meeting, which was attended by over 175 people. Please note that the presentation is a very early conceptual draft, and may change between now and completion of the park.

I think that this is one of the most exciting projects in our city right now. Currently, Woodall creates a moat around Downtown, and we have no central park for our city. We are in desperate need of greenspace as our Downtown and Uptown areas become more densely populated.

There are a couple of issues I feel strongly about related to the park. One, we need to close down Harwood and Olive streets within the park, rather than having the park sliced into three sections. A single piece of parkland is much more useable than three sections with cars whizzing past. The street closure won’t create a serious traffic burden because those two streets are the least traveled between uptown and downtown, and folks can simply drive either one block to Pearl or St. Paul to reach their destination. In fact, Harwood is currently closed for construction, and has been for several weeks, with no noticeable increase in congestion.

Two, we need to create a link from the Katy Trail terminus at the American Airlines Center to Downtown. I’ve been working on this for months, riding my bike from the Katy Trail to the Arts District, looking for the best link, talking with developers in the area, talking with our Park Department. It appears to me that Olive is the best route for an Uptown trail for several reasons.

First, it cuts through the middle of the Arts District, which is a very walkable/bikeable area. Second, it will cross the middle of the Woodall Rogers Park, creating a great route to a Downtown park.

Third, the land along Olive is largely undeveloped, creating an opportunity to build into those new developments a wide trail instead of teensy, tiny sidewalks. (I’ve already gotten two major properties along the route to agree to 5′ parkways with 10′ sidewalks).

Fourth, there is a new trolley route recently adopted by the City Council that will go along Olive between McKinney and Downtown, creating a nice pedestrian/alternate transportation route.

Fifth, if we create a lane of traffic dedicated to the trolley south of McKinney, we could continue that dedicated lane north of McKinney for pedestrian and bicycle use.

Overall, the Woodall Rogers Park project is expected to cost $60M, split equally between the private sector, the city, and state/federal/grants. The city’s part of the cost will be included in the proposed 2006 bond program.