State Fair of Texas Files Application to Build Giant Greenhouse, Growing Area at Fair Park

Earlier this afternoon, I noticed on the Landmark Committee's Fair Park Task Force meeting agenda for Wednesday a most intriguing note: Someone has applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness to build a "7,600 square foot Greenhouse and 6,000 square foot growing area" in the Midway at Fair Park. And by someone, I mean Errol McKoy, president of the State Fair of Texas.

Took a little bit of digging to find out that much: First I called Willis Winters, assistant director of the Park and Recreation Department, who said he'd only just seen the notice shortly before I called. "We don't know who the applicant is," he said. "We're trying to find out now, because it surprised us." He recommended I call Bob Hilbun, senior vice president of maintenance at the State Fair. He wasn't in, but no matter: A State Fair staffer told Unfair Park that the application had been submitted to the city by Ned Durbin, director of construction and maintenance.

I reached Durbin on his cell as he was walking the fairgrounds.

"I would love for you to be able to talk to Errol," he said "It's his baby. He's been the energy and brains behind our landscaping upgrade. We're in the preliminary stages. I have to talk to Landmark about it, and we'll see what they say, but we don't even have estimates in from the vendor. Because we're on a tight schedule, I wanted to get the ball rolling."

McKoy did call a little while ago -- during the four minutes I was away from my computer all day. I've tried several times to get him back on the phone, with no luck. However, that doesn't mean we don't have details. Because we do. You'll have to jump for 'em, but do mind the miles' worth of glass panels.

Late today, we got a look at the five-page application for the Certificate of Appropriateness sent to Landmark -- necessary because Fair Park is, of course, a historic landmark -- and what McKoy wants to build on the fairgrounds is no small project. Indeed, bare-bones plans submitted with the application show a 125-foot-long building that's 60-feet wide, which would be perched, quite logically, next to the Texas Discovery Gardens along Pennsylvania Avenue. The skeletal schematics were drawn up by Cincinatti-based Rough Brothers, whose Web site is loaded with photos suggesting the rather glorious end result McKoy has in mind.

As for the other half of the application, it says only that the State Fair also wants to install a "6,000 SF cloth covered growing area behind" the greenhouse. None of this, incidentally, is even suggested in the Fair Park Comprehensive Development Plan, which only calls for a Museum Green that "brings the 'park' of Fair Park out to its edges by replacing the current surface parking lot along R.B. Cullum Boulevard with a green park."

We'll post an update when McKoy calls back; he always does. But do keep in mind, this is the same man who envisions turning the State Fair into a year-round destination that'll compete with Six Flags Over Texas. He's thinking BIG.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky