This morning at City Hall, the Park and Recreation Department's Planning and Design Committee authorized the acquisition of the last piece of land the city needs for the long-planned, $9 million Pacific Plaza Park project. Right now, it's just a parking lot west of Live Oak and St. Paul streets that the city intends to transform into a 3-acre patch of green. But, according to the Dallas Parks Master Plan finalized in December 2004 (Page 84, to be exact):
The concept for Pacific Plaza is the creation of a multi-use civic park that can successfully accommodate the various recreational needs of the unique and diverse land uses surrounding this site. Of the three core park sites, Pacific Plaza is by far the most suitable for potential programming as a large civic gathering and event space.
The city will use $2,500,000 worth of 2006 bond funds to secure the two parcels. Michael Hellman, the Park and Rec's manager of park planning and acquisitions, says this will be "the most difficult acquisition so far," because the land is owned by a trust with some 18 different owners.
"If we can't come to a settlement, we'll have to authorize eminent domain, but we hope we can come to an agreement," Hellman told the board before they voted to authorize the move, even if eminent domain becomes necessary. The city still must find funding to actually develop the park, which would be the closest green space to the new DART rail downtown.
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In light of the grim economic outlook and the city's $190 million budget shortfall, we thought we'd ask why it's important to spend $2.5 million to secure land for a park for which there is still no development funding.
"We're implementing the Downtown Parks Master Plan, and parks can be a catalyst for economic development," Hellman tells Unfair Park.
He points out that new buildings, such as the new University of North Texas law school, are opening near the Main Street Garden site, and he believes that the presence of the park could contribute to a future renovation of the old Statler Hilton.
"Parks are an economic development tool," he said, "Of course, they're primarily for residents to enjoy, but they also serve to spur development."