Dallas Water Commons to Transform Overlooked Channel

Flood control is still the primary purpose of Dallas Water Commons

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New renderings were unveiled Thursday for the Dallas Water Commons, a combination flood control, park and education project to transform a long-overlooked part of Dallas.

Project Director Melanie Ferguson said it will be the first-of-its-kind cleansing wetland in the heart of a major U.S. city.

The site now is what has been an often trashy stormwater collection ditch along Riverfront Boulevard south of Interstate 30 through what used to be an industrial area.

The new renderings show a transformation of the site into a park and education destination. The Water Commons will filter water with plants by nature before getting pumped into the Trinity River floodway.

It was first conceived nine years ago and called the water garden, but has been renamed to better describe the link between the river and downtown Dallas.

There’s $15 million set aside the build the Water Commons project.

Supporters include Dallas artist and community leader Vicki Meek, who joined the Water Commons advisor board.

“This is going to be like a living classroom,” she said. “We're going to have kids able to come in real time come and see, this is how water works, this is a filtration system, this is how you get water out of your faucet.”

Ferguson said flood control will still be the primary function of the Water Commons as she showed the renderings of the site.

“We have these retention ponds, that's always going to be the case. That's the area of Dallas Water Utilities. But this is the part about the Parks Department. We can make it a beautiful space where people can come and play,” Ferguson said.

The ditch was once the main channel of the Trinity River through Dallas before the river was moved between levees in a floodway 90 years ago.

It’s taken this long to advance a better use for the city-owned channel, which will also make the adjacent privately owned land more appealing for redevelopment.

“There are lots of places in Dallas that we have abandoned and could use a little loving care. And this is one of them, that's not just about loving care, but being turned into something that's really going to be useful for us,” Meek said.

Developer Matthews Southwest owns much of the private land. The Water Commons leadership team includes employees of the firm.

Half of the money that’s set aside comes from taxpayers in a 2017 bond referendum. The other half was raised by a foundation set up to see the project through.

Final design for the Water Commons has not been finished and supporters of the project had no estimated date for project completion.

But renderings and details are more advanced than in years past.

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