Thursday, January 22, 2009

Construction of downtown Dallas' Woodall Rodgers Park delayed up to four months

Initial construction of downtown Dallas' Woodall Rodgers Park, scheduled to begin this spring, will be pushed back up to four months because of design delays, park officials say.

Specifically, park engineers are being slowed by changes in recent federal life safety standards that will require new construction designs to protect against fire and vehicle fumes, said Ed Fjordbak, a member of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation.

"As a result, the design documents are behind. It'll be about four months," Fjordbak said. "But we think we're going to be able to make up the time."

Dallas Park and Recreation Department Director Paul Dyer says construction is now estimated to begin sometime in August.

Deck park officials are still planning to begin utility work within a few weeks, rerouting electrical systems and addressing storm water and sewer facilities, Fjordbak said.

The construction delay is still "very unfortunate," said Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, whose District 14 includes the deck park.

"It's one of the key projects in the Arts District, but it appears the delay is unavoidable," Hunt said.

This is but the latest construction delays for the more than five-acre deck park, which when built will cover over canyon-like Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Akard and Pearl streets.

Upon the park concept's unveiling several years ago, officials estimated that construction of the park, which they say will help infuse the center city with vitality, would commence in mid-2007. The park will physically link two of Dallas' most burgeoning sections: tony Uptown and the Dallas Arts District.

At this juncture, the park is scheduled to open in mid-2011, Fjordbak said.

Despite the construction delay, "I don't think the opening will have to be pushed too far back," said John Crawford, president and chief executive officer of DowntownDallas, which represents center city business interest. "Obviously, the sooner we get started the better. But safety is safety - and safety is first."

There may not even be any further opening day delay at all, Dyer added.

In October, officials estimated that the park would cost $56 million to build, the funding bankrolled by a combination of public and private funds.

But the ultimate project cost has fluctuated in recent years, and will likely continue to do so because of changes in fuel and construction material prices.

If anything, the park's price could decrease because of lower material costs, Dyer said.
Dave Levinthal