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A New Park At Fair Park Is Being Built To Make The Grounds More Inviting

In this photo, you can see the iconic Fair Park Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel is light blue. It has the word 'Texas' spelled out across it. And in the center is a Texas flag. This photo has been used to share the news that a new park will soon be built on Fair Park grounds.
Keren Carrión
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KERA
A new plan to make Fair Park more open to the public is underway. Part of that plan includes building a new 11-acre park that's free and community-minded.

A new $39 million park is coming to Fair Park. It'll be free and open to the public. But can it lure people to the grounds year-round?

Dallas’ Fair Park welcomes tens of thousands of Texans to the grounds every fall for the State Fair. And most of the year, it feels closed off to the general public. But there are plans to open up Fair Park to its nearby communities and to make it more accessible to greater Dallas.

The first part of that plan began last week. That’s when Fair Park First, a nonprofit charged with remaking Fair Park, selected a world-renowned landscape architecture firm to design a new “community park.”

"Millions of citizens and visitors will benefit every year from the investment we're making to realize this extraordinary project. As an architect, I can't wait to see this transformation," said Darren L. James, President of the Fair Park First board.

According to a press release from Fair Park First, the new $39 million park will likely include a large lawn, a children's play area with an interactive water feature, naturalized plantings, remembrance gardens, a small pavilion for gatherings, and movable tables and chairs.

The new 11-acre community park could redefine the city’s relationship with Fair Park, said Mark Lamster, the Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic.

“Fair Park is more like Fair Parking at the moment,” Lamster said. “And this new park will really create a tremendous amount of green space. And it’s green space oriented towards the community that feels that it has been really shut out of Fair Park historically.”

Lamster reports that the “community park” will be built over a parking lot located on Fitzhugh Avenue on the east side of Fair Park’s 277-acre campus. Additionally, in an interview with KERA, Lamster said that the parking lot was built on land that was previously taken away from South Dallas landowners.

In the image, you can see a graphic rendering of the soon-to-be-built community park at Fair Park. In the image, there is an open field, a remembrance garden, a community pavilion, and an interactive water feature. This is not the final design.
Perkins & Will & Fair Park First
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A graphic rendering from Fair Park First's Master Plan presentation. This was shown to the Dallas Park Board in June 2020. And the image shows what could replace the parking lot on the Southeast side of Fair Park.

“This area, in particular, was a part of the surrounding neighborhood before the land was expropriated from home and business owners to create more parking,” he said. “So, this is very much a returning of that land.”

Lamster complimented Fair Park First for its selection of the Los Angeles-based Studio-MLA to design the project. And had good things to say about the firm’s founder, Mia Lehrer.

“They have a really strong record doing projects at all different scales,” he said. “They’ve done work on the Los Angeles River Project, which is kind of like our own Trinity River Project. They’ve done the landscape work for the $5.2 billion new NFL stadium. And Mia has done lots of smaller-scale parks too.”

Lamster told KERA that Lehrer has a great track record of “working with communities” to build parks that are “responsive” to their actual needs and desires.

The “community park” also plans to provide free programming for children, adults, and seniors.

A typical calendar of events during a week might include fitness classes, small musical performances, art workshops, drum circles, a reading room, and outdoor movies.

Got a tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow Hady on Twitter @hadysauce.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Hady Mawajdeh has been a reporter, producer, and digital editor at KERA since 2016. He is the creator and the co-host of KERA's first narrative podcast, Gun Play. And prior to his work in engagement, he also reported on arts and culture, social justice, and gun rights for the newsroom.