People on both sides of Interstate 35 in Oak Cliff want a deck park. And there are people on both sides who think it wouldn’t be the best use of tax dollars.
The Texas Department of Transportation held a public hearing in our neighborhood Tuesday where residents could see plans for the proposed park and give their feedback on it.
The highway department will rebuild 35, in a project known as “the southern gateway.” Once that’s completed, a 5.5-acre deck park could sit above the interstate, in the style of Klyde Warren Park, between Marsalis and Ewing.
The park would cost about $135 million. The Regional Transportation Council would pitch in $45 million, leaving the city’s portion at about $90 million. Dallas currently is staring down possible bankruptcy if it doesn’t solve the police and fire pension fund crisis. So there currently is no public money available for this kind of amenity, although it’s possible that at least some of the funding could come from private donors.
Proponents say an Oak Cliff deck park could create an economic boost for the neighborhood, creating opportunities for development while reconnecting a neighborhood torn apart when 35 was built decades ago. Cienda Partners, the developer that holds the old Oak Farms Dairy and Burnett Field sites, paid for conceptual plans for the park.
The proposed park could create a pedestrian connection between Zang Boulevard and the Dallas Zoo and make the area more attractive for tourism.
On the other hand, Oak Cliff isn’t crunched for space like Downtown.
Brandon Herrmann, who lives on West Clarendon, guessed that the city likely would have to pay at least $60 million in public funds for the park. And the amenities within could be built elsewhere for much less money. A publicly funded deck park would serve the privately owned Dallas Zoo and real estate developers while really offering no new amenities for regular people, he said. We already have parks and pavilions. And there is plenty of existing space to build amenities such as a skate park if the city wanted to spend money on that, Herrmann said.
Also of concern is that while the the western side of the park would be on the same level as Zang, on the eastern side, there would be a 20-foot wall where a pedestrian connection has yet to be planned.
Highway department representatives said there could be pedestrian ramps leading up to the park. Or the zoo could opt to build a parking garage that would also act as a pedestrian access point.
Residents who live near the zoo also said traffic in the area can be a problem when the zoo is very busy. They noted that no parking has been planned for the deck park.
Besides that, the roads near the zoo are in poor condition, they say. There’s a lack of streetlights and sidewalks, and there are drainage issues.
David King, who lives on Alaska said, “I like the concept generally,” but that the city has neglected basic infrastructure on the eastern side of 35.
Manny Rios, who also lives on Alaska, said he’s in favor of the project because his neighborhood needs any economic push it can get: “We need a big catalyst to keep progress going.”