Why Fair Park Must Be Revitalized: Eight Sobering Facts

The photo above is the Hall of State at Fair Park. It’s hard to see this celebrated building in such sad shape. But it’s an indication of what this great hall and the other iconic buildings in the Park are like year round.

As Dallas thinks about what should happen to Fair Park—whether to keep things as they are or do something better—consider these facts:

1.  Fair Park is barely 4% park and more than 65% asphalt.

Only 10 out of Fair Park’s 277 acres are park space, and 200 acres are parking lots. The parking lots are generally full only once a year.

2.  Since 1970, the Fair Park neighborhood population has declined from 70,000 to 30,000.20150901_disruption_fence_17 (2)

As acres of parking were added, homes in the nearby neighborhood were bulldozed, residents were displaced, and blight set in. As fences went up, the neighbors who remained felt pushed out.

3.  Most of the buildings in the Park are vacant except during the Fair.

20150909_womens museum_1Over the years most of the tenants have left, finding greater support and opportunity elsewhere.                  

4.  The State Fair has control of the Park more than a third of the year.

The Fair runs for 24 days, but its lease agreement allows it 2 months for set up and a month for take down. No wonder most of the buildings sit empty.   

5.  The City spends $2 million each year to maintain the Cotton Bowl grass.20150901_cotton bowl_6

The taxpayers pay an enormous price for the upkeep of natural turf for a handful of athletic events.

 6.  Nearly $100 million has been spent on Cotton Bowl renovations in the last few years.

In the meantime, the Hall of State and the historic art deco buildings—the heart of Fair Park—continue to deteriorate.

IMG_23477.  It’s a “Pop-Up Park” during the Fair, but afterwards the temporary trees and plants are put away.

Hundreds of trees and plants are placed around the Park during the State Fair, making it look like a park for a few weeks. Then they’re gone.

IMG_23148. The Park could be a great economic engine for the neighborhood, but it has actually hurt it.

As the Park sits mostly idle during the year, few nearby businesses are able to make a profit. There are no hotels, few restaurants, and poor prospects for launching new enterprises. And the closer a home is to Fair Park, the less its sales value.

Fair Park could be one of Dallas’s greatest jewels. It could be the City’s gathering place, a park full of trees, gardens, and bike trails, a drawing card for restaurants and hotels. It could be the fuel for the economic revitalization of the nearby neighborhoods. But it’s not.

A few years ago, we had a chance to make it happen. A plan was approved by the City Council in 2003. If it had actually been put in place, millions of dollars in tax revenues would already be a reality and most of the failures above would have been avoided or fixed.

But it wasn’t. The plan was adopted but not implemented or funded.

Shouldn’t we do things differently this time?