The latest plans for the Oak Cliff Southern Gateway deck park drew praise from Dallas city leaders Monday and disgust from some neighbors in the nearby 10th Street Historic District.
“They’re going to take our historic neighborhood and destroy our life. But I’m going to fight until I can’t,” said resident Patricia Cox.
The project, in the works for years, would bridge the I-35E R.L. Thornton Freeway between Ewing and Marsalis in front of the Dallas Zoo. The roadway divided the 10th Street neighborhood when it was originally constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.
April Allen with the Southern Gateway Foundation said hundreds of people participated in virtual meetings about the new deck park.
“I think that people are really excited about this park, maybe because it was somewhat driven by the community,” Allen said.
Councilman Casey Thomas who represents a portion of Oak Cliff, said it would bring Southern Dallas an opportunity for the economic development that has occurred around Klyde Warren Park over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. That deck park unites downtown and uptown Dallas.
“And from what I see the quality of the project is something that’s going to be impressive,” Thomas said.
The foundation has secured $47 million from several government sources for phase one construction of the bridge structure, but an additional $32 million is needed from other sources for amenities in the park. Allen said the foundation is talking with philanthropists about completing phase one.
“This is a really exciting project,” Councilman Adam Bazaldua said. “I love to see so much collaboration of investment in the southern part of our city.”
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Attorney Hudson Henley is a real estate investor with property along the freeway.
“We own the whole block in front of the future deck park,” Henley said.
His property includes an apartment complex, a motel and a former car dealership site on the west side of the freeway at Ewing Avenue and some other parcels on the east side.
Henley said he intends to start with a 260 unit apartment project and add restaurants and other elements later that would complement the park.
“It’s very exciting and I absolutely agree with the premise that it can join these neighborhoods that were split by I-35 many years ago,” Henley said. “We envision an entertainment district, a lot of fun, restaurants, bars eventually coming this direction, all to integrate with what they’re already doing with the park and the zoo.”
Residents of the 10th Street neighborhood complain that public money being used to construct the park should go to other city needs.
“Take care of the homeless, the crime. Where's the money for the historic district, where we can get these houses fixed up,” resident Rosa Medrano said.
Resident Patricia Cox, who lived in the neighborhood when the original freeway construction occurred, said the new freeway reconstruction has been worse.
A large freeway overpass wall now faces the residential neighborhood.
"Just the sight, the way that they’re building it. This is horrible," she said. "It has torn it up worse and now it’s like we don’t exist."
The 10th Street District residents fear the park will boost property values and make the neighborhood unaffordable for people living there now.
“With gentrification, a lot of people are going to be taxed out of their properties,” resident Larry Johnson said. “This is a green space here, and it’s a green space that has a culture, has a history and it needs to be protected.”
City officials said they are working on better sidewalks that would connect the 10th Street neighborhood with the new park, along with gentrification protection and home repair programs.
Property owner Henley said the new park and new development can be a benefit to everyone.
“The pieces are in place. The parties are in place. Something really good is going to happen here,” Henley said.
A development agreement between the city of Dallas and the Southern Gateway Foundation is planned on the Aug. 25 Dallas city council agenda.
Many more steps are necessary before park construction begins.