Dear Mayor: Go Global for a New Fair Park

Categories: Schutze

beret.jpg
Sorry, but there comes a time when we actually need this guy rather than city employees and real estate developers.
Reporter Scott Parks had an excellent "get" Friday in The Dallas Morning News revealing that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has been running a secret task force to come up with ideas for the future of Fair Park.

Fair Park -- the 277-acre 1930s Art Deco exposition park in the heart of old South Dallas. We talked here a week ago about the $30 million summer amusement park project at Fair Park that lasted one season last summer and has now died for lack of interest. Fair Park -- the park that can eat $30 million in one bite and not even get indigestion.

See also: Fair Park's Summer Amusement Venture Is Dead. Is Anyone Surprised?

Normally we here in the media should be all in a swivet over the closed-door strategy Rawlings has taken so far in seeking new ideas. But you know what? When it comes to Fair Park, I can't really rally much outrage over doing it that way, at least as a start.

The real story here is that Rawlings appears to be taking a very fundamental root-and-branch approach to finding a better future for this enormous block of land in the center of the city, and, yeah, of course, that kind of flame can only be kindled behind some kind of shelter from the political winds.

A decade ago when Stephen Jones was meeting with then Mayor Laura Miller about putting the Dallas Cowboys in Fair Park, he held a kind of town hall meeting in Fair Park in which all of the so-called stakeholders were invited to express their opinions. I wasn't a stakeholder, but I sneaked in.

Oh, my God. It was like some kind of global expo for all of the world's worst ideas. Then all of the people who had terrible ideas got mad at the other people because they thought their ideas were even terrribler. Went from bad to worse. I remember sitting there thinking, "Maybe this is what happened to Atlantis."

So, sure, Rawlings is right to get the thing started in a sheltered environment where people at least have a chance to exchange ideas and fire each other's imaginations. And obviously the whole process will go public at some point. A piece of the city's soul as big and as deep-rooted as Fair Park is not going to be disposed of one way or the other without a hell of a lot of healthy public debate and maybe some unhealthy as well.

But.

For some bizarre reason that I will never be able to fathom, Dallas has a tendency to look entirely inward when it's working a big problem like what to do with Fair Park. The best example I can offer is the Trinity River project, sold to voters in 1998 as the biggest urban park in America. So why, if it was going to be the biggest urban park in America, did Dallas not consult the world's best urban park designers? In fact why wasn't there an international competition?

Hey. City employees, elected officials and even newspaper columnists are not the people you want to have designing the nation's biggest and most innovative urban park. There are people who are globally recognized for their ability to do this stuff. If the Trinity River project was really all they cracked it up to be, then a chance to design that park should have been a high international honor for someone.

Now, the Trinity project is an anomalous case, because we now know that the park portion of the project was an elaborate public lie to camouflage the real intention, which was to build a highway. Presumably the liars behind the project didn't want some fancy-pants park-designer walking around in a beret smoking cigarettes in an ivory holder and proposing shit that would get in the way of their road.

But for now we do not have reason to suspect that what Rawlings is doing here is anything other than what it appears to be -- a major re-imagining of Fair Park. And assuming that is the case, then let's all hope that the parties to this effort will look outside the city, globally, to consult the very best and most imaginative thinkers and designers.

You know what? Even knowing how to find those people is a significant challenge. It's not too early to begin working on that piece of the puzzle.

For now, let's at least start out by giving the mayor serious credit for taking this on, for recognizing the need for a big new vision. Let's hope for now that this isn't a cover story so the six families who control everything in Dallas can build an elevated concertina-wire tollway to their lake houses. Let's be a tad patient about the moment when we get to see what's going on.

And let's say this. Rawlings is right. Fair Park is too important to waste, too wonderful to abandon. Somebody needed to do this. Great that he did.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
44 comments
WylieH
WylieH

[For some bizarre reason that I will never be able to fathom, Dallas has a tendency to look entirely inward when it's working a big problem like what to do with Fair Park.]


Very true.  Mary Suhm used to go nuts when people would bring up success stories in Ft. Worth, for example.  It honestly made her angry--- very odd, indeed. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

Do a JV with Disney. We can throw in the land and they can determine what would work well there.

The City would get money instead of feeding it every year, for goodness sakes we could use the money to do things like fix our streets, and they would understand how to operate the facility better than anyone else.

MargaretHuntHill
MargaretHuntHill

Even if it needed to be secret, how on earth does he expect the crowd he assembled to come up with new ideas?  These are the exact same people who have been working on the project since last century.  Were they just warming up over the last 10 years, and now they're ready to produce real genius?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Wait a sec, hold the presses.  What if the 'pegasus project' or horseshoe or whatever it is, the reconstruction of the I-35/I-30/I-45 interchange is tied in with the flooded tollroad project?  What if TXDot needs another SuperCoop like the Austin Bypass has?  All that concrete would make one helluva good start for an all-in-one weigh-station/DOT inspection/Customs/Commercial Trucking ticket generator....

FRED
FRED

It would be nice to see some serious commentary here instead of snark.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

How much says the Rangers new ballpark will be pitched for Fair Park?
Not complaining. Just sayin'.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Outsiders make suggestions that make sense, not money for the GOB network.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The TxDoT 'East Corridor Plan' envisions dropping IH 30 below grade like Central, expanding it to 19 lanes (including the cantilevered access roads) and decking it at 2nd Ave ala Woodall Rogers.

That alone would light up equity interest for a big private build-out of retail, residential and office.  Great view of the Dallas Skyline and, if high enough . . . the MIGHTY  Trinity River flood plain.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Let the Davenports have at it. They know how to make money there.

Catbird
Catbird

I was tempted to do what we perpetual outsiders enjoy so much: mock the people in the arena.


But that was the old Catbird. The new Catbird is just happy that somebody is dong good work.looking out for Big D - Cheers!

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

Perhaps some gas wells and or a pipe line plus a casino.  Who owns the Fair Park mineral rights?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

 "Craig Holcomb, former Dallas City Council member and current executive director of Friends of Fair Park"

Hey Craig this question begs to be asked .How many attractions have vanished from that venue during your tenure ?


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The only thing the City needs to decide is the buildings we want to historically designate.  Then put it up for plan submission from well-funded equity real estate professionals.  We can vote on the top 3 design proposals.  Once passed, let no special interest group be allowed to hold it hostage, or throw a monkey wrench in it.  Adopt the plan by ordinance or special district overlay.

Get the City out of the planning of it.  Get the people IN the planning acceptance of it.

Perot Jr. developed Victory Park, lost his shirt and the Germans, who floated the deal, took a bath but took it back.  However, the taxpayer wasn't hung with the bill, which is huge.  This thing has GOT to be privately designed, funded and built.  And it CANNOT be on the tax exempt rolls.  This way if it doesn’t make it the first time around, it can be re-priced and sold to the second guy in without the Omni Effect (if you know what I mean).

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

I thought Dallas already went global for the string thingy bridge?  Look how well that turned out.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Big dilemma, though.  I'd love to see the Park develop into a fun place with lots of interesting attractions, but I, for one, find it difficult to tolerate the heat of summer beyond 10am on most days.  After that I find myself only in air-conditioned places. 

CueCat
CueCat

Hey... I hear Harlan Crow needs a place to put his fancy art museum since his snooty HP neighbors don't want it cluttering up their neighborhood. Why not just put it in one of those big empty buildings in Fair Park?  Say... the former Women's Museum, for instance. Plenty of parking, good DART access  and the neighbors would have a whole new crowd of hoity-toities to prey on.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Vacate the State Fair of Texas.  Jerry will buy Six Flags and that can be their Midway.  

Now we got a chunk of dirt to REALLY play with.  But I don't think you can devote the main flat top to a 3-weeks-a-year venue.  That's waaaay too much acreage to lock up off downtown to a venue that's dormant 11 out of 12 months a year.

Besides.  Dallas doesn't make much off the state fair.  Only the state fair makes money off the state fair.  And it's exempt from property taxes.

I envision one big MASSIVE TOD - Transit Oriented Development.  New Urbanist Edge City concept. Live/Work/Play development that does not need a lot of parking.  The main DART switchyard and several light rail stations already serve the hub.  

And get HUD to put up some money (ha!).

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Well, I think one thing they need to consider is a way to make the place more comfortable most of the year. Let's face it, most of the year Dallas is hot. I'm hoping they will look ripping up a bunch of concrete and replacing it with drought tolerant grass, trees and other plants. But, I don't know if that will actually encourage people to spend more time there. 

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Were fucked!

FP task force:

José Bowen, dean of Meadows School for the Arts at SMU

Craig Holcomb, former Dallas City Council member and current executive director of Friends of Fair Park

Mark Langdale, former president of George W. Bush Foundation and current real estate developer and investor

Jack Matthews, president of Matthews Southwest, a real estate development firm

Diane Ragsdale, former Dallas City Council member and current executive director of InnerCity Community Development Corp.

Mary Suhm, former Dallas city manager

Alan Walne, former Dallas City Council member and current chairman of State Fair of Texas Inc.

Max Wells, former Dallas City Council member and current president of Dallas Park and Recreation Board

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

The City of Dallas Charter says: "All meetings of the council and of all committees thereof shall be open to the public and the rules of the council shall provide that citizens of the city shall have a reasonable opportunity to be heard at any such meetings, in regard to any matter considered thereat."

Ya gotta wonder if during these "Once in 10 Years-Charter Review" public meetings that no one is attending, this important rule will be stricken. Of course, we won't know until it's needed that we find it has been deleted.

FREDD
FREDD

@holmantx I hope that will happen. Finishing the Haskell Blvd from West Village and City Place to Fair Park would also open things up.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@FRED  

The funniest part of your comment is the one "like" you got.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@FRED  i didn't earn 'Top Commenter' status by throwing down serious commentary, sir.

Tonio
Tonio

@oakclifftownie  Friends of Fair Park has little to no authority to negotiate deals with any of the venues outside of the theater, which has stayed active. The city handles all the actual property. Friends of Fair Park is an advocacy group that promotes the park while it is not in use by the State Fair and puts on occasional events.

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  They go to Six Flags, they go to water parks, they go to movie theaters in the middle of summer. Fair Park installed more shade structures and giant fans for Summer Adventures, and they still have an IMAX theater, last I checked.

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz You've had people attempt to set up events in the various pavillions, and they're definitely heated and air conditioned. Some of them are even successful...until some genius gets the bright idea that the best way to make money off a newly popular event is to jack up the cost of parking in the main parking lot.

Catbird
Catbird

@CueCat  I remember back in 1999 when Robert Decherd was going to dome the esplanade and have a big party down there for the New Millennium...about the same time he was investing in CC.  

Biglar
Biglar

@Sharon_Moreanus  The right way to do this is just to put the whole place up for bid to real estate developers - highest bid takes the cake, and they can either keep the State Fair and music events or let them go to Jerry World.  But the members of the committee except for the deveopers are just a bunch of non-profit cronies of the city of Dallas insiders.  Dallas taxpayers should watch their wallets!  

LeroyJenkem
LeroyJenkem

@Sharon_Moreanus Well, we've got Ragsdale, who'd approve a rocket to Mars on Fair Park's dime so long as she got her cut and the launch station hired at least two dozen of her close personal friends for executive positions. We've got a lot of former City Council people who have no problems with bending over the city for their bosses in Highland Park. The best one, though, is Craig Holcomb. Letting him have any say in how Fair Park should be run is like hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to manage a vegan restaurant. I wouldn't trust any of these idiots to sit the correct way on a toilet seat, but his management of Friends of Fair Park is a demonstration that the Peter Principle is no barrier to someone really determined to drive something into the ground.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@Sharon_Moreanus   this task force IS making some progress. they've already put together a list of new ideas for deep fried confections.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@FREDD @holmantx  

The City work has already started on the stretch from 2nd Ave/IH 30 interchange to the Baylor Hospital emergency room.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@Tonio @oakclifftownieSorry my mistake .So the actual letter head should  read  >Just  Friends of the Indoor Music Hall Venue  @ Fair Park<  and would be more fitting ?

Because Friends of Fair Park is very misleading sounds quite self Important all Inclusive Indulgent and trademarked Dallas Pretentious 

..


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @holmantx  

The Omni Effect - a condition where the bonds were represented (to the citizen) to be revenue bonds but were in fact general obligation bonds.

This parable arose in 2000, where precisely the same arguments were made in St. Louis over the public funding of a proposed  1,100-room convention center hotel. The city floated bonds to complete the hotel in 2003 based upon a "study" of dubious nature. It  was sold at auction foreclosure sale on February 9, 2009. It cost $288 million to deliver; it  sold for $98 million however, the bond holders only had recourse against the asset (the property) - not the taxpayer.  

Hence, the Omni Effect.  Here in Dallas, the bond issue is a thinly disguised general obligation of the taxpayer.  Any shortfall at foreclosure sale the citizen must make good to the bond holders.  It was the only way to sell the bonds on a dog like this.

And this one is going to DWARF St. Louis's little venture.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @holmantx  

and it wasn't a sarcastic reply.

Just took an opportunity to rub it in on those who cheerleaded a Publicly-owned Hotel as a concept.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...