Fair Park

Fair Park's New Community Park Detailed in New Plans Revealed Thursday

Renderings revealed Thursday detail the amenities of the 14-acre space to be built over what's currently a parking lot.

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The effort to bring a major upgrade to the home of the State Fair of Texas and revitalize the southern Dallas community took a major step Thursday.

Designs revealed Thursday detail the plans for the 14-acre community park planned to be built over Fair Park's largest parking lot. That lot, built decades ago on a site that was once neighborhood homes seized by the city, was created as a buffer between Fair Park and the predominantly Black neighborhood around it.

Renderings made public Thursday morning detailed the Blackland Prairie design -- the result of months of community meetings and planning, according to Fair Park First, a nonprofit responsible for the stewardship and maintenance of Fair Park.

Among the features planned are gardens, picnic areas, a community stage and pavilion, play areas, dog park, market grove, water elements and various outdoor spaces.

Fair Park First

The park, located off South Fitzhugh Avenue between Exposition Avenue and Lagow Street, will be free of fencing and open to all. It's all an effort organizers say, to help heal the past and welcome the community back to the park.

Pastor Donald Parish Senior of True Lee Missionary Baptist Church in South Dallas serves on the board of nonprofit Fair Park First which was created several years ago to revive and oversee Fair Park.

He said the new park plans are a step in the right direction.

“It’s an acknowledgment of what happened and maybe trying to say in some way, we’re going to try to give back to the community that we’ve taken so much from,” he said. “It's hard to say that you're satisfied when you look at the damage that was done.”

On the parking lots that now separate the rest of Fair Park from the South Dallas neighborhoods, 600 homes once stood.

They were seized by the City of Dallas. Parish said families were removed without adequate compensation.

The parking lot expansion was said to be for the Dallas Cowboys, who played in the Fair Park Cotton Bowl at the time. But Parish said it was also to push the African American neighborhood away from the park.

“A whole community of people were ushered out of the city,” he said.

Fair Park First

Fair Park First Chief Executive Officer Brian Luallen said the latest community park plans are the result of 1,000 meetings and contacts with current members of the South Dallas community.

“It’s critical that we take down the fences here. This is very open and welcoming. We see it in many ways as a red carpet, or in this case a green carpet that welcomes people back into the park that it felt like this was an unwelcoming space for a very long time,” he said.

Luallen said only about a quarter of the $85 million needed to build the park has been raised but groundbreaking is scheduled for January anyway.

“We’re really hoping the philanthropic community continues to show up in the way that they have since we launched the capital campaign,” he said.

A November referendum is planned for Dallas voters to consider a separate fundraising plan that would provide $250 million for other Fair Park needs.  But even if voters reject that, Luallen said the community park project will go forward next year.

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“Our commitment is always to the community park and no matter what, we are on track to deliver this,” he said.

Pastor Parish said Fair Park should be an economic engine for the entire city and the neighborhood around it.

“The community will benefit from it, hopefully. But the entire city will profit by it if it is done right and done well and so, this has been my motivation,” Parish said.

The community park is a cornerstone of the city's master plan to revitalize the 277-acre Fair Park, which was approved in October 2020.

The Fair Park First goal is to complete the new community park by the end of 2024.

An $85 million capital campaign to fund the project continues, with The News reporting an announcement on the campaign's progress is expected to come in the coming weeks.

The November referendum would also raise billions of dollars for a new Dallas Convention Center, in addition to $250 million for Fair Park, if voters approve it.

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