Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Imagine a trio of boulevards connecting Fair Park to Trinity Park
Throughout my career as an architect, I have been fortunate to visit many of the world’s greatest cities, including London, Paris, Rome, Beijing, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. What makes these cities great? Most prospered early in their history on waterfronts that supported trade and transportation. Eventual crowding forced organized transportation, park development, vertical growth and infrastructure. All great cities provide places for people to live, learn, work, play, govern and heal. Great cities grow in a thoughtful way. They are livable environments.
I am proud that Dallas has accomplished much toward becoming a great city. Downtown and Uptown flourish with residents, retail, restaurants and services for the 24-hour population. Transportation options provided by DART and the trolley serve our needs to move about without cars or parking spaces. The Arts District and Klyde Warren Park have added vibrancy.
Yet the development of interstate highways and toll roads has created significant barriers. Just as Woodall Rodgers was depressed to leave the downtown streets intact and allow the development of Klyde Warren Park, are there other opportunities to connect resources and neighborhoods to expand our urban core?
HKS, which has been a part of Dallas for 75 years, is interested in exploring ideas about how the city can grow and develop with greater connectivity. So we started imagining around big ideas: How could our city transform in the next decades?
Other civic and professional planning leaders joined with our in-house effort — among them Don Williams, Antonio Di Mambro, Wick Allison, Scott Rohrman, Hank Lawson and Dan Noble. We also enjoyed the benefit of Brent Brown’s study of how to best connect the city with the future Trinity Park. Randy Morton and Takeshi Kamiya of HKS Urban Design Studio led the effort.
With the recent discussion of I-345 (the interchange near downtown where I-30, I-45 and Woodall Rodgers converge) needing repair at a reported cost of $100 million to $150 million — or even more — we explored how that elevated highway could be transformed into a ground-level boulevard. The idea is to create a destination and generator of future development and expansion rather than just an elevated highway with deserted space underneath.
We realize the discussion about this is extremely controversial, yet does an elevated I-345 make sense?
One of our city’s greatest treasures is Fair Park. Unfortunately, a massive amount of surface parking surrounds it, separating it from the neighborhood. Not to mention that Fair Park is disconnected from downtown and East Dallas by I-30 and I-345. (Well-known planner Di Mambro recently prepared a detailed report for the Foundation for Community Empowerment, strongly supporting the revitalization of Fair Park and integrating it more with the surrounding neighborhoods.)
In addition to isolating Fair Park, I-345 also separates Deep Ellum and Baylor University Medical Center from downtown. With Baylor’s proximity to where our streets turn from downtown toward Fair Park, this specific area has the opportunity to be a major hub to connect with other parts of the city.
We then explored the other axis. Could I-30 also be depressed to allow surface access directly to Fair Park? Access from Fair Park could continue to the Baylor campus and then turn toward downtown through Deep Ellum. These streets, with landscaping, could connect a necklace of parks and public spaces through the city along Commerce, Main and Elm streets, continuing through downtown and connecting to Trinity Park. This also could be an opportunity to create a transportation loop connecting Trinity Park all the way to Fair Park.
Although the vision of Trinity Park is evolving, Gail Thomas, Deedie Rose, Brent Brown and others will make it happen. But the Trinity toll road within the levees remains a concern, as it is in the floodway and also another obstacle between downtown and the river. This toll road will attract through-traffic that should be diverted around Dallas. Larry Beasley’s lecture last month emphasized eliminating these barriers, not adding to them. Support remains for the toll road, but we recognize it is growing in controversy.
There are challenges and details in this Trinity Park to Fair Park plan that would have to be overcome, but the vision is to foster discussion about interconnecting our city in a way that further inspires growth into an even greater, livable city. I would encourage all of us to keep our city, our human capital and our transportation needs in mind.
Ralph Hawkins is chairman of the Dallas architecture firm HKS Inc.