About the award
Established in 2015, the nonprofit Parks for Downtown Dallas has focused on delivering four priority parks where diverse communities can gather and thrive, greatly enhancing the city’s downtown core. The organization is a powerful example of a public-private partnership operating at the highest level to realize a bold vision in an era of tight and shrinking municipal budgets.
Like many cities nationwide, Dallas’ downtown was developed as a commercial district that essentially went dark at the end of the business day. In the 1990s, just 200 people made downtown Dallas their home, though today, that number has grown to more than 15,000 and continues to rise. Green and community recreational spaces were scarce 25 years ago, while surface parking was a hallmark. An original master plan, published in 2004, helped address the situation by adding three parks to the city between 2009 and 2012.
Investors have funneled nearly $7 billion into downtown Dallas since 2000, and its rapid growth spurred the city’s parks and recreation department to revisit its strategic plan in 2013 and identify four priority parks that would complete its center city park system. Since its establishment just two years later, Parks for Downtown Dallas has overseen the creation three vital parks: Pacific Plaza, West End Square, and Carpenter Park. The fourth and final, Harwood Park, is slated to open later this year.
Parks for Downtown Dallas and the city’s parks and recreation department has engaged Dallas’ philanthropic community, which has contributed more than $56 million in gifts for park design and construction, operations, future capital improvements, and permanent endowments. The citizens of Dallas also provided $39.4 million through public bond funds for constructing one of the priority parks and parkland purchases from Parks for Downtown Dallas. The organization took the proceeds from those sales and reinvested them into the four priority parks.
To realize four world-class parks that will stand the test of time, the nonprofit turned to professionals at SWA, Hargreaves Jones, James Corner Field Operations, and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, to design them. In turn, the firms were supported by an additional 44 design, engineering, and consulting firms.
The four priority parks were envisioned as more than green spaces in a bustling commercial district. To succeed, Parks for Downtown Dallas realized that the parks must connect neighborhoods, bolster the community’s health, and improve the city’s environment. To design four world-class parks that will stand the test of time, the nonprofit turned to professionals at SWA, Hargreaves Jones, James Corner Field Operations, and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects. In turn, the firms were supported by an additional 44 design, engineering, and consulting firms. Parks for Downtown Dallas has collaborated with 24 discrete city departments, commissions, and boards, along with nine other external organizations, including AIA Dallas and the Architecture and Design Foundation.
As construction of the priority parks winds down, Parks for Downtown Dallas has begun shifting its mission to ensure the long-term stewardship of the park system. As the city’s growth and maturity continue, its government remains hard-pressed to fund critical upkeep and necessary improvements to the parks. The nonprofit has therefore set a remarkable goal of raising $50 million for maintenance, security, and community outreach for the priority parks and the city’s other parks.