Tuesday, October 23, 2012

KLYDE WARREN PARK PRESIDENT VIEWS NEW PARK AS 'GAME CHANGER' FOR DALLAS



Mark Banta
Mark Banta



In advance of the grand opening of Klyde Warren Park, the new 5.2-acre urban green space in Dallas, Texas Real Estate Business chatted with Mark Banta, president of Klyde Warren Park, about the project's background and what impact the park will have for Dallas businesses, residents and visitors. What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion.

TREB: How was the park first conceived?

Banta: It was a culmination of an idea whose time had come. The opportunity to build this park was first started when the freeway was lowered so that the opportunity to build the park over it could occur at some point. It was controversial at the time. The city was literally planning on building this freeway at grade level and it would have forever blocked the development.

The Real Estate Council (TREC) commissioned a study to figure out what would happen if the park were built. They spent about $1 million commissioning this study and, sure enough, they said, 'This is feasible if we can raise the public/private partnership to do it.' The rest, as they say, is history.

Park construction began in 2009, but the decision was made to undertake the park many years before that.

TREB: For Dallas, what's the short- and long-term impact of the park?

Banta: Downtown green spaces are game changers because they provide a central gathering place for people to reconnect. That's a basic human need that's been there from the beginning of time. The more technology pushes forward, the more intrinsic need for people to gather together and just be people.

[The park] will connect Uptown and Downtown and provide a place for people to gather and tell their stories of the day and just enjoy watching kids splash in the fountain. It's going to reconnect us.

TREB: What is the park's main purpose for residents? Tourists? Businesses?

Banta: In each case, the park targets individual audiences. One of the initial core users will be the downtown business community. As professionals break for lunch, as they exercise before work, the park will become a place where they get a break from their regular work routine.

Downtown residents will also become very early adopters of the park. Other residents who maybe live too far away to walk will use the park as a destination because they've heard of the programs and the [interactive] fountain.

Then you have visitors who are down in that area. Perhaps they're coming to a symphony or they're coming to a play and they discover the park. That's part of what we really hope will happen in a big way.

TREB: What is the expected economic influence of the park?

Banta: The park is expected to be self-sufficient, so we'll have to raise between $2.75 million and $3 million annually of self-generated revenue. That's a direct economic impact. We're expecting to be self-sufficient with no tickets, no gates and no tax allocation.

What's interesting about Klyde Warren Park is that it's plopped into the middle of this pre-existing affluent Downtown and Uptown and Arts District sections. This will cause a very accelerated property value of the area immediately surrounding the park. It will also increase the opportunity for retail experience. One of the things that differentiates great cities from world-class cities is the pedestrian experience. If you've been to Chicago or New York, you can walk out on the street any time, night or day, and feel completely comfortable and see a million things as you walk along the cityscape.

Here in Dallas, we're not quite there yet. We have an opportunity to have the infill of residential, retail and restaurants that will help take us to the next level.