Downtown Dallas was not known for its parks in the early 2000s – because there were hardly any to speak of. “Dallas has gone from a standing-start downtown, with virtually no public parks in 2004, to the cusp of completing 23 acres of dynamic downtown parks ” Amy Meadows, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy President, told D Magazine in November 2021.
The rise of parks in Dallas’ urban core started with the implementation the city’s first-ever Downtown Parks Master Plan in 2004 with the opening of Main Street Garden, Civic Garden and Klyde Warren Park. It was in the 2013 Update of the Downtown Parks Master Plan that four Priority Parks were highlighted for future development: Pacific Plaza, West End Square, Carpenter Park and Harwood Park.
Downtown’s newest and largest addition is Carpenter Park, which opens on Tuesday, May 3. The 5.75-acre park neighbors Deep Ellum, and helps to establish a strong east-west connection between Old East Dallas and Downtown. It’s the third of four Downtown Dallas parks to be constructed as a result of a public-private partnership between the Dallas Park and Recreation Department and Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy.
Carpenter Park is an expansion and renovation of an existing park, Carpenter Plaza, which opened in 1981. Award-winning landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Jones, who co-authored the 2004 Downtown Parks Master Plan and led its 2013 Update, is leading the design team for the new park which features a broad range of new amenities including a dedicated dog run, basketball court, interactive fountain, children’s environmental playscape, and notable art.
Carpenter Park is a sprawling oasis on the edge of an urban jungle; it boasts an expansive lawn and lush gardens with 20 different species of plants. The park itself is encircled by wide walking paths, and no less than 3,000 linear feet of granite walking paths meander through the park, guiding visitors through the park and its features.
Park-goers will be treated to a first-of-its-kind remodel by one of the most significant American artists working today, Robert Irwin. Irwin is known for site-conditioned works that explore the effects of light through interventions in space and architecture. Because his pieces are created in and for a particular space, he has never redesigned any of his installations. Until now, in Carpenter Park.
Irwin’s seminal work Portal Park Piece (Slice) has been carefully dismantled, reimagined, and reinstalled under the subtle retitle, Portal Park Slice. 123,000 cubic feet of soil was shaped to create Sculpture Hill, the hill in the center of Portal Park Slice. The hill reaches 13 feet in height and overlooks the entire park and the Dallas skyline. In the same vein, Robert Berk’s historic statue of the park’s namesake, John W. Carpenter, will greet visitors at the western entrance.
There are more than just exciting things to see at Carpenter Park – there’s plenty to do as well. The basketball court is the first public outdoor court in Downtown; hard to believe and destined to be beloved. Not far from the courts is a dedicated dog run. With more than 40% of Downtown’s 14,000 residents owning at least one dog, we know how important this feature is to current and future residents.
Younger kids can enjoy a playground made of natural materials that are perfect for climbing and sure to immerse them in a bit of environmental escapism. Once everyone has worked up a sweat, they can head over to the prominent corner of Pacific Avenue and Pearl Street to enjoy the Fountain Plaza. 117 water jets of varying heights create a beautiful place to play, cool off, or just enjoy the sights.
Sightseeing is known to work up an appetite, and of course, the park has an answer to that. Under the freeway along Cesar Chavez Boulevard, the park is activated with a plaza for sitting and enjoying the fare from local food trucks. There is a pavilion to dispense games and dramatic nighttime lighting that animates the east side of the park.
Carpenter Park has been transformed into a neighborhood park that welcomes people into Downtown Dallas. It’s as utilitarian as it is artistic, blended seamlessly by thoughtful design. Experience your new park when it opens on May 3, 2022.