Citizen Input on New Fair Park Plans

Past meetings brought loud complaints about previous plans

The public gets a new chance Monday to sound off on the latest plans for the future of Dallas Fair Park after a year of controversy.

The initial plan backed by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings for a non-profit foundation to be led by businessman Walt Humann met strong resistance at  earlier public meetings from critics who wanted to allow competition from other groups.

The Dallas City Attorney agreed with critics that competition was necessary.

“We were successful in turning that around and now we have 3 bids on the table and that’s the way it should be,” new Fair Park area City Council Member Kevin Felder said.

Felder won a June 10th run-off election to remove the incumbent who supported Rawlings’ initial plan for the park.

“It’s an under-utilized asset. It’s the crown jewel of the City of Dallas. There’s a lot more that could be done,” Felder said.

The State Fair of Texas is the best known tenant of Dallas Fair Park. But the City of Dallas wants to see the park become more of a year round gathering place and a greater benefit to the neighborhood around it.

Sunday events included the Southwest Black Arts Show at the African American Museum in Fair Park.

Artist Jennifer Cowley, who was showing her work at the Museum, said her family has deep connections to the park. Her parents were fair vendors and another relative lived in the neighborhood.

“I think that Fair Park is an asset. I think it’s beautiful. I think the buildings are historic. I think they need to be preserved,” Cowley said.

Many of the buildings need expensive repair. The non-profit foundation proposal was to be a path for raising private donations to help fix the park. Neighbors insist park improvements to also boost the communities around the park.

“We want to protect the community from gentrification while at the same time bringing development,” Felder said. “We want development. I want to see dirt fly. I want jobs to come there.”

A consulting firm is now helping the city refine a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) since additional groups have expressed interest in Fair Park revitalization.

Monday evening the consultants will conduct a community meeting to gather feedback at the Women’s Museum building in Fair Park.

Councilman Felder wants to see middle income housing built in the area for people who would like to move back to neighborhood where they grew up.

“No one has ever done this to this magnitude in the City of Dallas before so it’s uncharted territory,” Felder said. “Fair Park needs to be an economic engine. They need a catalyst and this is the best thing we’ve got going, so we have to get this right.”

The Women’s Museum is no longer operating in the 1910 building where the meeting will be held after 11 years of struggling to find enough support.

The African American Museum is thriving in its Fair Park building and leaders of that Museum plan to attend Monday’s community meeting to show support for making progress on Fair Park.

Artist Jennifer Cowley said the benefits from the right investment could be tremendous.

“If they come in and pump a little bit of money into this area, I think a lot of revitalization will happen and I think that more people will come. I think that more people will know about this gem, and not just the people that live in this area,” she said.

The community meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8pm Monday night.

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