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Out Of Thin Air: "Making Ground" On the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park

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As much fun as Mayor Tom Leppert and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson could have had shoveling dirt down onto rush hour traffic, this morning's "ground-making" for the Woodall Rodgers Freeway Deck Park took a more conceptual direction.

Inside the future home of the Parkside Condominiums, with an expansive view of the wet concrete that planners say will be a broad strip of urban park in two years, the ceremony kicked off with an explanation from the chairman of the park's board of directors, Jody Grant.

"What we're gonna do is, we're going to create space out of thin air," Grant said.

Students from nearby Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts spiced up the ceremony with music and dance, including a rock number with juggling mimes and yoga flourishes. Dancers on the ground waved their arms in a slowly writhing tableau, as others escorted state and city officials with large jigsaw puzzle pieces to a backdrop that, when assembled, gave an aerial view of the deck park plans.

Mayor Tom Leppert said the deck park represents a bridge between Uptown and downtown, and hailed the project as a model of public-private partnership. (Of the $77 million raised for the project so far, $20 million is city bond money. State money from TXDoT and federal stimulus funding will also help build the park.)

"It's an example of when you say yes and are willing to move forward, that great things can happen," Leppert said, describing this morning's ceremony as just one in a series of milestones for the city, including the DART Green Line's opening over the weekend, tomorrow's Convention Center Hotel groundbreaking, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science improvements later this week. "Let me tell you, this is a great day, a great week and a great month for the City of Dallas," Leppert said.

Angela Hunt, seated between Leppert and City Manager Mary Suhm, took the podium to recall the changes she's seen in downtown in the decade since she lived there. Today, she said, downtown has 10 times its 1998 population of just 500. Hunt said she's marked milestones in its resurgence, from the first dog walker she spotted downtown to the first person pushing a baby carriage there. Monday's groundbreaking, she said, was another of those milestones.

We've got more photos from the ground-making on the following pages.

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