Fair Park was once our city’s crown jewel, the centerpiece of urban living. Today, it is surrounded by concrete, poverty, and empty buildings. By reconnecting it to downtown and by bringing new street life and amenities to the abutting neighborhood, Dallas could restore its most important park and remake it into a source of year-round enjoyment for the surrounding communities.
Plans and studies for redoing Fair Park, if stacked one atop another, could reach to the ceiling. The problem is, these studies have always presented top-down solutions to revitalizing the park. Fair Park will be revitalized only when the community demands it and the neighborhood takes a hand in it.
New development arising from the removal of I-345 creates the market demand that is needed to force the issue on Fair Park. The Mayor’s Task Force on Fair Park recommended that it become a year-round entertainment facility. It did not say, however, how that could be accomplished while the State Fair commandeers the park for four months of the year. The four month occupation also prohibits any year round tenants to refurbish and lease the historic buildings at Fair Park. The State Fair’s attempt to open a summer theme park concept was a $30 million failure.
New people produce new thinking as well as new demand. Fair Park could indeed be a year-round park. It could also serve as a Dallas venue for a major university. It could also be an entertainment and sports district centered around the Cotton Bowl. It could also continue to house the seasonal State Fair of Texas. It could, in fact, do all four of these things – and by doing them, become a jobs engine for the surrounding community.
By bringing economic activity to the East End of downtown, by putting people on the streets and amenities on the street corners, we energize an entire section of the city that is now lifeless and nearly deserted. That energy has a spillover effect. The biggest beneficiary of that spillover effect would be Fair Park. It could once again become our city’s crown jewel, the centerpiece of urban living in Dallas.
Where we stand:
We are encouraged by the city’s decision to open up the bid process for management of Fair Park, a welcome departure from the plan to turn it over to a private citizen with little built-in oversight. We will be evaluating all the proposed plan from what we believe two well-qualified groups with the ultimate goal of creating a signature park—and working in tandem with residents of Fair Park and South Dallas to advocate for the best solution that transforms Dallas’ crown jewel into a year-round economic engine.
What they’re saying: