This is an exciting year for the city of Dallas. The opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the recent opening of City Performance Hall, and the long-awaited openings of Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science are giving Dallas a renewed sense of vibrancy.
It’s time to pause, look around, and realize that we truly have a city to be proud of.
It’s been a long time in coming. Ten years ago, downtown Dallas was a bit of a ghost town; there were only 250 residents, almost no retail, and no nightlife to speak of. The late Ray Nasher once said to me that Dallas lacked the “stickiness” he enjoyed at his visionary NorthPark development. He meant that people come in, get what they need, and leave. Downtown was designed to zoom people in and out.
In 2002, Mayor Laura Miller appointed me to the newly formed Inside the Loop committee, lead by Robert Decherd, CEO of Belo Corp. The committee’s purpose was to develop ideas of how to make Dallas more competitive with other cities like Denver and Houston, to draw businesses and residents to downtown. Through a tremendous team focused on getting the job done, the Inside the Loop committee created and implemented strategies designed to give people reason to stay in downtown.
Two years later, the CEO of Crescent, John Goff, hired landscape architect Jim Burnett to draw a preliminary sketch of a park built over Woodall Rodgers Freeway. We then pitched the idea to The Real Estate Council. Within three months, we received the initial $750,000 to get the project started, which was later followed by another $750,000. We spent years trying to figure out how to build a park over a freeway that wasn’t designed to have a freeway over it. People thought we were crazy, but we knew that if any place could pull this off, Dallas could.
Next month, the grand opening of Klyde Warren Park will mark the culmination of several years of hard work. It has been outstanding to see something that was just an idea a decade ago grow into a $110 million park.
The construction of Klyde Warren Park transforms a moat-like freeway that separated Uptown from downtown into a soothing public area. Where there was once noise and pollution, there is now green space. The park will connect all the world-class assets we have between the Arts District, downtown, and Uptown, and will make the sum of them greater than the individual portions. It makes the area seamless and activates an impressive urban environment.
Because Klyde Warren Park will open as one of the most highly programmed parks around, with more features to see and activities from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., people will want to make a day of it and spend more time in the largest cultural district in the nation. They won’t just go to one place; they’ll go to several. Klyde Warren Park will force people to relax and appreciate many of Dallas’s greatest treasures.
Throughout my time at Crescent, I have had the pleasure of serving in a number of ways to develop these treasures, as well as working to create a better quality of life for Dallas residents and improved opportunities for Dallas businesses. Today, there are 10,000 residents downtown. Companies will once again find Dallas an attractive place to be, on many levels. We finally have somewhere to take our guests to show them what a great place Dallas is to live and work.
Klyde Warren Park is just one piece in a cohesive puzzle that is making Dallas an exceptional city. It opens doors to enhance the greening of Dallas; it’s the precursor to the Trinity River Project and a fully connected Katy Trail. We’ve always envisioned the park as a catalyst that brings the foot traffic to the area that will support even more improvements.
We’ve accomplished a lot over the past 10 years, but there’s still more to do. For now, though, it’s time to slow down and enjoy the city and take pride in all we’ve achieved. Let’s celebrate our can-do spirit. We live in the kind of city where building a park over a freeway is entirely possible. It’s time for us to pat our city on the back and say, “Good job, Dallas!”
John Zogg. is managing director of leasing for Crescent Real Estate Equities LLC. Contact him at email@example.com.