More than 50 years ago, the construction of Interstate 35E split and destroyed neighborhoods in Oak Cliff and South Dallas.
Now, residents may soon see part of the city of Dallas' and the Texas Department of Transportation's efforts to "right the wrong" with a 5.5-acre deck park in Oak Cliff that will be constructed over a section of I-35E and connect South Dallas neighborhoods.
Dallas released its master plans Tuesday for the Southern Gateway deck park, part of the Southern Gateway Project.
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Phase One of the deck park will span from Ewing and Marsalis avenues on I-35E, directly next to the Dallas Zoo, and feature a lawn and over 250 trees.
It will also include other features requested by the community, with a stage and pavilion, a children's playground, a dedicated food truck area and a multipurpose building.
Photos: “An Opportunity to Right The Wrong”: Dallas Releases Plan for Southern Gateway Deck Park in Oak Cliff
That 2.8-acre section "aims to open to the public in late 2023," the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation that manages the park, said on its website.
Construction of the park itself is set to begin in 2022, after the construction of the deck, which will support the park, is completed. TxDOT began that work in July 2020 and is about halfway finished.
The park is a public-private partnership between the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation and the city, TxDOT and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. It will cost about $82 million, with $35 million coming from the foundation for the park and a combined $7 million coming from Dallas city bond funds and $40 million from the NCTCOG for the deck.
The foundation, which manages the public park as part of the partnership, decided to build the park in two phases back in 2017 due to a lack of sufficient funding.
Phase Two of the park's timeline is dependent on securing additional infrastructure funding. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson signed a letter of a coalition of mayors nationwide supporting president Joe Biden's infrastructure package Tuesday.
He told The Dallas Morning News' Sharon Grigsby that the Southern Gateway deck park fits within Biden's call for correcting injustices in neglected communities with public infrastructure.
“This project is exactly within that scope,” Johnson said to Grigsby. “We’re not just doing the bare minimum to connect those communities from a civil engineering standpoint but to do things within the park to drive that equity piece.”
The park is connecting what a task force study said are two of the lowest-income census tracts in Dallas. The 10th Street Historic District, a Freedman's town, was populated by former slaves and deemed a landmark neighborhood in 1993.
But the construction of I-35E in the early 1960s cut the area off from the rest of Oak Cliff.
A pedestrian pathway named the 12th Street Promenade is an attempt to reconnect that area with a majority Latino community on the other side of I-35E, which Grigsby wrote is "exemplified by the bustling vibe on Jefferson Boulevard."
The walkable pathway will be lined with "interactive information" about former and current notable Oak Cliff residents.