Adding Carpenter Plaza Park to Cause a Redo of the City's Downtown Parks Master Plan

Just seven years ago, Carpenter Plaza Park was supposed to be part of a larger gateway to the Arts District.
Just seven years ago, Carpenter Plaza Park was supposed to be part of a larger gateway to the Arts District.
From the Downtown Parks Master Plan

We've known for a long while now that the upcoming expansion of expansion of César Chávez Boulevard and Pearl Expressway downtown, from Commerce Street to Live Oak Street, would create a new downtown park -- Carpenter Plaza Park, to be specific, which will unite those three separate parcels into a single three-acre tract (as opposed to the 30 acres envisioned in 2004). Rudy mentioned it again yesterday, since the city council will vote today to authorize a public hearing on the makeover. From today's agenda:

John Carpenter Plaza is currently divided into three separate sections by Pearl Street and Crocket Street, which limits the park's use and function. The City of Dallas Public Works Department has designed roadway improvements for the Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Pearl Expressway Project. This project requires certain park areas to be dedicated for street purposes to facilitate the roadway improvements, totaling approximately 16,432 square feet of land. Through a separate Council Action, certain portions of Pearl Street and Crockett Street will be closed, vacated and dedicated as park land, totaling approximately 32,891 square feet of land. As a result, John Carpenter Plaza will increase in size by approximately 16,459 square feet to 3.03 acres.

The subject came up last night when I spoke with Park and Rec's second-in-command about something very unrelated, which I'll get to in a while. But, Winters said, the new Carpenter Plaza Park is such a big deal for the city that it will necessitate a wholesale redo of the 2004 Downtown Parks Master Plan -- especially, he said, Pacific Plaza, for which the acquisition of land was no easy feat. He said a "private partner" will be brought in for the do-over.

"We're very excited about it," Winters said. "We'll focus in on a specific site in the Farmers Market and the West End. Whereas the original plan in '04 had 18 potential sites identified, we'll focus in on what has already happened, including Main Street Garden and Belo Garden. The original plan focused in on multiple sites. One of them was a gateway park from Carpenter all the way north to the Arts District, and a lot of the land we lost."

Indeed, the Gateway Park, as originally proposed, would have been massive: around 30 acres, which would have made it the largest in downtown by a wide margin. Per the original master plan:

Gateway Park would convert current surface parking lots into a vibrant green foreground to downtown while creating a space for festivals and events and an active community recreation area. The park's prominent location along the northeast corner of downtown presents an opportunity to create a visual 'front door' to the Central Business District with a monumental green space. Pedestrian connections below both the Woodall Rogers Freeway and Central Expressway will attract nearby residents to the park and help surmount the barriers posed by the freeways. Strong links to Bryan Place and to the Uptown neighborhood add an important residential use to the park.

That, of course, was not to be. Hence the need for a new plan.

"We'd also identified four potential sites near the downtown farmers market, and there's been development there and will be more in the future," Winters said. "Now we can focus in on a real site. And, originally, we identified three sites in the West End. It was scattershooting vacant lots that would make good parks. Now we can get specific."

The rewrite, Winters said, is due to begin early in the new year.

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