Council Debates Use of Land Under Bridge Dividing Downtown, Deep Ellum

One architect suggested soccer, while the sport was not the first choice of residents in the neighborhood

New plans are in the works to bridge the Dallas divide between downtown and Deep Ellum.

The elevated highway, marked on maps as Interstate 345, connects Central Expressway with Interstate 45 along the eastern edge of downtown.

A dog park and several parking lots are already underneath portions of the overhead roadway, along Commerce, Main and Canton streets.

But much of the underpass is still dark and worrisome to pedestrians who walk beneath it, especially at night.

"We try to walk really quickly because it is really, really, really dark," resident Jennifer Wallace said.

A Dallas City Council Committee this week discussed ideas on how best to use more of the space under the bridge.

Architect-in-training Roddrick West said soccer should be part of the solution.

"While I was living in Miami, I played on soccer fields that were under I-95," he said.

West returned to his hometown hoping to make that vision a reality under I-345.

He said it could work like Klyde Warren Park has over Woodall Rodgers Freeway to bridge downtown and Uptown Dallas and attract new development -- except this new park would be under the roadway.

"There's a mental barrier for people to cross under there and sometimes you see development hit a highway and doesn't necessarily jump over," West said. "We're going to pump it full of activity, human activity. So you're going to have much more play going on, more life being brought under that bridge, so people would feel safer walking under there, effectively connecting Farmers Market and Deep Ellum together."

Jennifer Wallace said she liked the idea.

"It would definitely make everyone feel safer, the people that are walking from downtown," she said.

The Deep Ellum Foundation surveyed residents and property owners, and soccer was not their first choice for the use of vacant land under the bridge.

"The number one thing is transportation and accessibility issues," said the foundation's executive director Stephanie Keller Hudiberg. "So congestion, pedestrian safety and parking. And parking being the number one within that category of transportation issues."

The plan presented at Dallas City Hall this week included a new 500-space parking lot under the freeway on the south side of Taylor Street. The north side under the bridge was suggested for other uses.

West said it should be soccer.

"What we're looking to put down is some nice artificial turf, Grade A playing surface for individuals looking for 6-on-6 soccer, even flag football," West said.

The city council committee this week did not send the proposal on for full city council consideration. Instead, it told people involved to keep working on the plan.

"It is public land and it's important that the residents, stakeholders are involved in that process," Keller Hudiberg said.

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