Slated to open in 2025, the five-acre "park with a purpose" will be a key catalyst for closing the opportunity gap that was created when the highway was originally built in the 1950s through the middle of Oak Cliff. The park is a public/private partnership with the City of Dallas and the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, with support from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and TxDOT.
"This generational project will lead to increased greenspace, significant economic development, and safer, healthier places to live and play," said April Allen, Southern Gateway's President and CEO. "But on a personal level, one reason this project is so important to me is that I want to show the people in this community — my community — that they matter … that they are worth hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. Every person, regardless of where they live, deserves to have beautiful amenities and public spaces where they feel welcome. That's what motivates me every day to keep doing whatever it takes to make this vision a reality."
In addition to comments from Allen, the event featured remarks from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and Texas State Senator Royce West; musical performances by local area school groups; and animal encounters with park neighbor, the Dallas Zoo. Guests at the "groundmaking" also had the opportunity to write a personal message to the park as part of a commemorative art piece and tour the site to learn more about the park's future amenities.
"What I hope historians will say is that this moment in time turned out to be the turning point in how we viewed and treated the southern part of our city," Johnson said. "This marks the moment we stopped talking about investing in Southern Dallas and actually did it … when we invested in real infrastructure to spur the growth and development not only of the geographic area, but more importantly, the people themselves."
The Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation enlisted design firm HKS and landscape architecture firm SWA to lead the park's planning and design. Their work resulted in a multilevel park that both reflects the history and geography of its surrounding neighborhood and responds to community priorities for park features. The park's construction is led by a joint venture between McCarthy, a construction firm with prior deck park experience, and EJ Smith Construction, a local and minority-owned firm. Once open, the park will attract an estimated 2 million visitors annually and generate more than $1 billion in economic impact in its first five years.