Monday, June 18, 2012

Fair Park, a future? (reprise)

Fair Park may be the most under-utilized asset in the city of Dallas. 

The 277 acre community resource combines museums, seasonal attractions (including the best known, State Fair of Texas), history, art and performances.  It is a national historic landmark. Personally, I have very fond memories of walking to the State Fair with my best buddy when we were grade school kids.  His dad allowed us to tag along to his workplace not far from the park and we'd walk the short distance to a destination of great fun and wonder. 

For many reasons, those days are long gone. 

I've been thinking about Fair Park and its possibilities for quite awhile now.  When Jerry Jones decided not to build Cowboys Stadium in the park, I wondered why the city of Dallas wouldn't redevelop it in a manner that would actually produce more economic return to more of its citizens than a football stadium. 

More recently, I read Patrick Kennedy's opinion piece in the June issue of DMagizine ("Big Tex Is a Murderer," page 14) reporting that two zip codes just south of the park are two of the 25 most violent neighborhoods in the U. S. (75210 and 75215 rank 9 and 12 respectively).  Kennedy blames the violence in large part on the fact that the park includes 47 acres of surface parking, noting that "Crime follows disinvestment."

Kennedy wonders what would happen if the parking lots gave way to redevelopment and new investment.  I like the way he is thinking.  However, I don't think he goes far enough. 

The entire park needs comprehensive redevelopment.  One  possibility would be a public-private partnership, possibly backed by an aggressive bond issue and including private investors, land planners and community development organizations.  I know the Dallas 2020 Olympic Committee focused its attention on Fair Park as a potential, wonderful site for an Olympic Village had Dallas landed a bid for the games.  Plans included thousands of apartments that could be leased/sold after the competition concluded. 

Selling off some or all of the park should be considered with built in obligations to develop a truly diverse community in and around the park.  The value of adjacent homeowners' properties  would have to be protected as an upfront part of any deal. 

Can you imagine the vitality of a mixed use, mixed income development at such a scale?  The redevelopment, reinvestment coupled with DART's Green Line at the doorway of the park would draw Fair Park back into the entire community.  Businesses, performing venues, an entertainment corridor, apartments for lease, condos for sale, a healthy connection to the nearby schools--the deal, done properly and adequately capitalized, would set off real transformation of South Dallas.  The return on investment to the city and to the entire region would be phenomenal. 

Wonder what would happen if a group of accomplished folks got together and worked on this?  It's way past time to take some creative action on this largely untapped jewel of our city.

No comments: