Nonprofit Brings Green to Downtown Dallas

Slides from the Mammoth-Themed Harwood Park | Image by Parks for Downtown Dallas

Dallas features a number of vibrant urban parks set in and around the city. One nonprofit, Parks for Downtown Dallas (PfDD), has been established to facilitate the support of existing urban parks and foster the growth of new ones in the downtown area.

Parks for Downtown Dallas was previously featured in The Dallas Express as one of the city’s most influential community organizations. In this installment of an ongoing series on such organizations, The Dallas Express will delve into some of PfDD’s accomplishments.

The nonprofit was established in 2015 to “advance the long-term development and support of public parks within downtown Dallas” and to “promote a more liveable, environmentally resilient city center through advocacy for parks and green space,” according to the organization’s website.

This organization has devoted all of its assets to the development of four “priority parks.” The construction of these parks was initially recommended in the Dallas Park and Recreation Department’s 2013 Downtown Parks Master Plan Update and has received over $39 million in bond funds from the city and an additional $56 million from private investment.

So far, PfDD, in partnership with the City of Dallas, has completed three of the four parks in its original plan.

Once an asphalt parking lot, Pacific Plaza has been transformed into a grassy respite for downtown residents and visitors. The 3.74-acre park, located at the corner of Pacific Avenue and N. Harwood, was completed in October 2019 and includes a pavilion, lawn space, and large swings. The site features 32 mature trees along Pacific Avenue, as well as 144 new trees that were planted during the construction of the park.

West End Square, located at 607 Corbin St. in the West End Historic District, opened in March 2021. The park features a large U-shaped canopy to provide shade from the Texas heat and includes a 50-foot-long table equipped with charging stations and Wi-Fi to serve as an “outdoor workroom.” The park’s interior is composed of a Prairie Garden inspired by the Texas Blackland Prairies.

Carpenter Park, located at 2201 Pacific Avenue on the eastern edge of downtown Dallas, opened in May 2022. Encompassing 5.6 acres, it is the largest of the downtown parks. It is a revamped and expanded version of Carpenter Plaza, which was originally dedicated in 1981. Carpenter Park now includes “a basketball court, dog play area, interactive fountain, children’s environmental playscape, gardens, and walking paths,” according to PfDD’s website.

The fourth “priority park,” Harwood Park, is currently under construction and is expected to open in 2023. Located within the Harwood Historic District at 408 S. Harwood St., the nearly four-acre site will offer a children’s playscape, an interactive splash pad, a multi-function sports court, and a dog park.

Todd Interests and East Quarter Partners contributed $1 million toward the development of Harwood Park. Patrick Todd, managing partner with Todd Interests, spoke with PfDD in 2022 on the importance of this new park, noting that urban parks like it are essential for “all aspects of quality of life.”

“You’re seeing a rise in urban families in Dallas, so a place to meet friends and have your kids have a safe, enjoyable environment to be a kid is massive as well. So the benefits of a park are literally limitless, and I think this one’s unique in that you have all these benefits, but rather than a row of suburban houses surrounding it, you have the magnificent Dallas skyline setting the backdrop to the park,” said Todd.

PfDD also supports the 1.7-acre Civic Garden located at 1014 Main St. This park, formerly known as Belo Garden, was opened in 2012. It offers an interactive fountain and a lush garden of ornamental grasses and prairie flowers.

PfDD has received widespread recognition for its efforts to beautify the downtown area. The nonprofit received a silver award for social impact and a bronze for sustainability from the Telly Awards in 2022. The organization also received multiple American Institute of Architects Awards in 2018, 2021, and 2023.

Even though the fourth park is nearing completion, PfDD’s work is not finished. The organization has its sights set on raising $50 million to guarantee the longevity of the city’s downtown parks.

“PfDD is actively raising $25 million to support the four Priority Parks. Our aspiration is to raise an additional $25 million for a permanent endowment to support Downtown parks within the freeway loop. Together, we can build an urban park system in Dallas that stands the test of time,” states the organization’s website.

The Dallas Express made repeated requests for comment to PfDD but received no response by the time of publication.

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