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Dallas: Parks for Downtown Dallas Reveals Harwood Park Concept

Feature Illustrations (above): Concept of a play area (upper rendering) near Young Street and across from the Scottish Rites building; the Great Lawn in the park’s center (lower rendering). Courtesy: Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

Posted: 10-24-2019

by Eileen Pace

Dallas (Dallas County) — After nearly four years of design discussions, Parks for Downtown Dallas revealed its preferred concept for Harwood Park this month at a Landmark Commission meeting.

Robert Dechard, chairman of Parks for Downtown Dallas, and Christy Ten Eyck, the principal at Ten Eyck Landscape Architects of Austin, sought feedback from the commission during the Oct. 7 session. They outlined details of plans that have been worked out between the PfDD, the city Parks & Recreation Department and area residents.

View of the project site (tinted in red) looking north from Young and Harwood. Circa 1955 archive photo.

Ten Eyck, a Dallas native, said she is excited about what the historic buildings in the Harwood Historic District bring to the texture of the park and its surroundings. The park will serve as a neighborhood and family park for a district experiencing a major resurgence over the past decade. Harwood Historic District was a major commercial and entertainment center in the late 19th/early 20th century period that is home to many of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Ten Eyck referred to the 412 S. Harwood Street building at the north corner of Harwood and Young Street as an example of how the architect was incorporating on-site and off-site structures into the park design. The building is distinctive white cast concrete columns that form a grid for walls filled in with red brick.

“We’re carrying the columns to maintain the street presence that historically was there on Harwood on through to the entry into the park to the 312 Harwood building (at Wood Street),” she said, adding, “You have to realize we’re in concept design, we’re not even in schematic design, yet.”

Above: View of Harwood Street looking north and beginning near Young Street by the 412 S. Harwood building. — Below: Elevation sketch of the park at Harwood Street showing the transition of columns (right) to The Petropolitan building façade (center), to the arbor entrance (left). Courtesy: Ten Eyck.

The park would encompass two irregularly shaped city blocks and its bound by South Harwood Street to the west, Jackson Street to the north, South Pearl Expressway on the east and Young Street to the south. Three building demolitions will occur–the 2017 Young St. building, which obstructs views of the Dallas Scottish Rite building; the 2008 Jackson Street building and the 408 S. Harwood building, also known as The Petropolitan. The façade of 408 S. Harwood would be saved, however, and repurposed as part of the Harwood Street columns.

Other notable elements being incorporated into the site plan include but are not limited to:

  • A Harwood Street entrance with an arbor and seat wall alongside the cast concrete columns, thus establishing a pattern that creates an energy area to enliven the street.
  • The closing of Wood Street between Harwood and South Pearl Expressway. The road will be replaced with a generous pedestrian promenade. The concept includes a double walkway with a rain garden that recalls tributaries that used to go to the Trinity River through the area. The roof surface of the buildings at corner of Young at Pearl will be used to harvest rainwater.
  • One of the main elements will be Gold Ring Green, an overhead trellis made of the gold rings that were salvaged from the old Statler parking garage. Many other Harwood district artifacts are being incorporated throughout the park.
  • One of the most requested features from downtown residents was a Great Lawn. This will be placed in the central portion of the park. It can be a gathering place for families, events, a yoga-in-the-park program and other activities.
  • An entry plaza and grove is planned for the Jackson/Harwood corner.
  • Next to Young Street, with views of the Scottish Rite, space is being dedicated for a children’s playground.
  • The park will be dog friendly, with an pet intercept zone available for dogs to take care of their business before entering. It includes a subsurface filtration system that flushes into the sewer system. However, Harwood Park will be just three blocks southwest of Bark Park Central, the main downtown/Deep Ellum venue for area pet owners.

Taking in the birds-eye view, the park is designed to provide open view corridors of the historic district’s surrounding landmarks–Scottish Rites to the south, First Presbyterian Church to the southwest, The Statler and downtown skyline to the northwest, and the resurgent new development of the East Quarter.

Emily Williams, the commission’s acting chairwoman, thanked the PfDD team for saving historic buildings and related artifacts.

“Quoting David Dillon–he described the Harwood District as ‘an urban architecture museum,’ and the fact that you’ve retained all of this is remarkable,” Williams said.

The Harwood Park conceptual site plan. Courtesy: Ten Eyck.

Only a small portion of the park lies within the Harwood Historic District. Still, Ten Eyck told commissioners that the park would harmonize with nearby historic places such as Lone Star Gas & Oil and other structures.

Harwood Park is the last to be constructed in the four “priority parks” identified in the Downtown Dallas Parks Master Plan. The cost of the four parks together is approximately $86 million and is covered jointly by 2017 and 2006 City of Dallas Bond Programs, the PfDD and private donors.

Dechard told commissioners that “the timing of this review is propitious” because Pacific Plaza, the first of the four priority parks, was to be dedicated the following week.

“West End Square and Carpenter Park will commence construction next year. Harwood Park will get underway in 2021,” Dechard said.

“So, a full understanding of site conditions and the completion of site preparation are critical steps prior to conveying this site to the city next year,” he added. “PfDD will use proceeds of that sale and its own financial resources to build the park under development agreement with the city.”

There are two contributing structures in the park (312 and 412 S. Harwood), which will remain as they are.

Dechard told the commission that he and Ms. Ten Ayck had been meeting with Willis Winters, Dallas Parks and Recreation Director, regarding incorporation of the three structures into the park or directly relate them to the park.

“Those three structures are 312 S. Harwood, where artist Pamela Nelson and her husband lived for many years, 412 S. Harwood at the corner of Harwood and Young Sts., and 2027 Young St., which abuts the Dallas Ballet building,” Dechard said.

The ballet building and its parking lot are privately owned and not being considered for the park.

Regarding budget specifically for Harwood Park, Dechard said, “We have already begun discussing ways to value engineer the project to encompass the restoration of the three buildings, as well as the façade only of 408 S. Harwood.”

Commissioners gave the design team mostly positive feedback on the plans. They also questioned how some issues were addressed.

Commissioner Rosemary Hinojosa asked about treatment of the district’s film industry history. Ten Eyck said a part of the park will be known as Project Hill. It will include a sculptural vertical element with a projector that will display films or light art on the Great Lawn and on adjacent buildings, “much like what San Antonio does on the church (San Fernando Cathedral) downtown.”

View of the entry plaza at the corner of Harwood and Jackson streets. Courtesy: Ten Eyck.

Commissioner Donald Payton asked about parking, to which Dechard responded, “Building a park in a built environment is complicated. We have looked at all those issues in all four parks, none of which have dedicated parking.” He added that Downtown Dallas, Inc. is participating and has deep experience in parking issues through its 360 plan.

Williams added, “Your attention to the view corridors from inside the park to the outside is so important, and we don’t see that very often. Now, you’ll be in the park, but you’ll look outward to historic landmarks.”

Commissioner Renee Strickland said she was struck by the creative use of the gold rings and the concept of a dog park. “I can see that as a great draw to the neighbors, who are going to be the main constituents of this park. It is the intended demographic of this park,” Strickland said.

Dechard agreed, noting that the goal is to put every resident within 10 walking minutes of a park.

Dechard said, “I have to brag on Christy Ten Eyck. Using the gold rings was her idea four years ago. She and Willis Winters have a ‘blood oath’ that the rings are not going anywhere until this shade structure is built. And, I promise you, the way light will play through these historic rings is going to be quite spectacular.”

The Great Lawn and beside it the shaded trellis constructed with the Gold Rings salvaged from the original Statler Hotel parking garage. Courtesy: Ten Eyck.


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By |2019-10-24T10:36:04-05:00October 24th, 2019|Construction Preview, Feature Story|

About the Author:

Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.