By Julian Bowman
The Fair Park Management Team, led by Fair Park First, recently shared the early renderings for the new Community Park in Dallas. This park within a park concept transforms the largest parking lot on the campus into a 14-acre natural Blackland Prairie, interwoven with the social surroundings of South Dallas.
“By merging these two themes into one cohesive vision, we are ensuring this park is intrinsically South Dallas in its identity, North Texas in its ecology, but truly unlike any place in America,” said Maria Landoni, Senior Associate and Design Lead, Studio-MLA.
The Community Park design team, led by renowned landscape architecture firm, Studio-MLA, began crafting concepts in early 2021 with the end goal of creating a unique user experience.
“We challenged Studio-MLA and this design team to embrace a 360-degree approach to this plan,” said Darren L. James, Chairman and President of Fair Park First. “We do not see the park as having one front entrance. We see it interacting with all four sides in different ways. Then, once you enter the park, we want to provide a different experience with all the elements that are inviting you to move across the space.”
The Aerial Site Plan highlights this approach with open, welcoming edges and captivating site lines interspersed with unique landscapes and extensive programmatic offerings desired by the surrounding neighborhoods. The Community Park’s major features and elements include ecological gardens, picnic areas, a community stage and pavilion, multiple play areas, a dog park, a market grove, water elements, and an abundance of outdoor spaces and amenities to relax and gather.
The Bird’s-Eye View Rendering shows the Community Park in context within Fair Park and South Dallas and its proximity to downtown Dallas. The overall design takes shape in this rendering, and a warm color palette emerges, inspired by North Texas sunrises, springtime wildflower blooms, and Sunny South Dallas murals. Varied topographies and landforms help mold and define the outdoor spaces, while water and geology move north to south (right to left on the rendering) naturally with an emergent water fountain, living water runnels, and terraced prairies. The horticulture plan, led by Studio Outside, tells the story of the Blackland Prairie that unfolds across the site from river bottoms and flood plain forests to sensory gardens and overlook orchards. These elements translate into an exciting atmosphere rich with color, textures, and uses.
The Night View Rendering spotlights the Community Stage and Central Lawn during a festival. This rendering showcases the architectural scheme architect Allison Grace Williams, FAIA, designed alongside Dallas-based architects buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The view depicts the stage and its flanking overlook with a rock hill to the right and the Market Grove to the left. The lit-up tower on the right shows an early concept of a Lookout Tower inspired by the shape of a “Texas Twister”, which provides a panoramic view of the park. Lighting will play an essential role in the park’s warm, sunny palette even into the nighttime. The design team envisions interactive lighting elements that create a playful day to night environment that visitors interact with and control.
All-abilities play elements were consistently requested by the South Dallas community during the master plan process. The Community Park will have over one acre of playgrounds and play features dispersed across the site. The Playground Rendering is an early gesture of what elements will be found across the site, including sensory gardens immersed in custom play structures, slides carved into the topography, and colorful pieces that provoke joy and discovery. The half-acre playground showcased in this rendering will include an interactive water feature, custom climbers, a tot lot zone, a custom mega net structure, and roller slides nestled in the rock hill. In the rendering background, there is a peak at the Community Pavilion to the right, the Community Stage to the left, and the Community Lawn in the central, which will be a site for daily programs and activities.
Perched at one of the highest points of the site sits the Market Grove, an outdoor orchard adjacent to the stage, above a seep wall, and overlooking the Central Lawn. The Market Grove Rendering shows how the Princeton Elm orchard is arranged to host farmer’s markets and art fairs and be a shady place to gather with friends while having a meal and enjoying live music. On the right side of the rendering is an early version of a food and beverage concept that will be tucked in among the elms.
The Community Park is continuing to be defined by the design team, with input from the surrounding community and Fair Park stakeholders. The design is currently in the schematic phase through early summer 2022, with the remainder of the year being design development, construction documentation, and permitting. The Community Park is scheduled to break ground in early 2023 and open in fall 2024.
The Community Park is part of the $85 million Fair Park Your Park Capital Campaign launched in spring 2021 and is led by Fair Park First and Rise360 Consulting. The Capital Campaign will fund not only the Community Park but other greening and restoration projects across the Fair Park campus. For more information, please visit www.fairparkfirst.org.
Julian Bowman is Sr. Director of Marketing for OVG360 | Fair Park | Cotton Bowl® Stadium.