The Trust for Public Land comes out in support of Pacific Plaza plans

Recently, Robert Kent, North Texas area director for The Trust for Public Land, addressed the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, encouraging them to support Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy’ plans for Pacific Plaza. The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization that creates parks and safeguards land for public use. Below are his remarks on the subject of Pacific Plaza.

I would like to speak about downtown Dallas — not the downtown we have today, but the downtown we hope for tomorrow. What will that downtown of tomorrow look like? Who will live there? Will there be families? Will there be children? And what will those future residents want from their parks?

I grew up in Lake Highlands, where I lived on a cul-de-sac. Any day of the week I had the privilege of being able to walk outside the front door of my parents’ house and play in the street with other kids. The parents on our street never had to fear that their children might get run over by a car, because the street was small and infrequently used — or in a word, safe.

What about families and children living in downtown?

How many of these families have a safe and close-to-home place for their children to play? Today, not very many. But in the coming years, I expect that to change.

That’s why I am pleased to offer the full support and endorsement of The Trust for Public Land to the Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy Foundation. We applaud their generosity and efforts to create green spaces that are safe and close-to-home for the growing number of families who call our downtown district “home.”

During the past 30 years, my organization has helped create hundreds of acres of new parks throughout Dallas, from the Joppa Preserve to the Chalk Hill Trail. Starting in 2005, we embarked upon a multi-year effort to help the City of Dallas purchase the parking lot at the corner of Pacific Avenue and North St. Paul Street, the first step toward creating Pacific Plaza. We spent more than three years — and nearly $6 million dollars — to purchase and then convey to Dallas’s Park and Recreation Department 1.64 acres of land slated for inclusion in the park.

Our involvement with Pacific Plaza did not stop there.

During the past year, we have conducted an extensive analysis of potential park locations throughout Dallas, including Pacific Plaza. Data from TXDOT and NCTCOG indicates that Downtown Dallas has the highest density of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in the County, with hundreds of crashes in the past five years, dozens of which were fatal. Because of the current danger posed to pedestrians in the area and the park’s close proximity to the St. Paul Street light rail station, our analysis has identified Pacific Plaza as a high-priority opportunity for improved connectivity and pedestrian enhancements.

To put it plainly: Pacific Plaza is in sore need of features that can improve walkability and pedestrian safety. This park has the potential to provide a critical pedestrian link between nearby transit, residential buildings and offices. More importantly, it could be a close-to-home park that downtown families can feel safe walking to and playing in with their children. We envision Pacific Plaza as a tree-filled and pedestrian-friendly park with few structures, enhanced pedestrian connections to the St. Paul Street station, traffic-calming features for nearby streets and limited parking.

Last November, we were pleased to learn that the Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy Foundation intended to invest $35 million to support parks in the heart of our city, including Pacific Plaza. We were even more pleased upon seeing their proposal for the park because we saw that it reflected our vision of a leafy, pedestrian oasis that will provide a safe place for children and families to enjoy.

I urge you to think about the role parks will play in building the downtown of tomorrow, a vibrant urban neighborhood attractive to families. Unlike the neighborhood I grew up in, downtown Dallas won’t be able to offer its residents cul-de-sacs or large front yards — which is why it’s all the more important for the parks in downtown to be safe for families to walk to and safe for children to enjoy. The Trust for Public Land strongly endorses the proposal set forth by the Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy Foundation, and we encourage the Dallas Park and Recreation Board to support the foundation’s work.