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A Broader Vision for Fair Park

Plans would make area year-round attraction with shops, restaurants

By JAIME JORDAN / The Dallas Morning News

An amusement park, retail shopping and restaurants are all part of a vision for Fair Park that developers say will make it a year-round destination for area residents and visitors.

Hargreaves Associates, which is also doing consulting work for the city on the Trinity River project, presented its concepts to improve the park and the area around it at a public meeting Thursday night.

The plan includes proposals for hotel and meeting space within the park and calls for narrowing some streets, such as Robert B. Cullum Boulevard, to provide better access to the park.

The plan's creators said it would transform South Dallas.

"More green space and lots of things to do, from soccer fields to paddle boats to indoor skating to throwing a Frisbee to having a picnic," said Mary Margaret Jones, president of Hargreaves Associates, a San Francisco-based landscape and architectural firm hired by the city to develop the plan.

Eddie C. Hueston, executive general manager of Fair Park, said the firm was hired for $1.5 million after some much-needed revitalization of the park's buildings.

"Now that we'd restored the buildings ... and we have saved some of the buildings, we thought, 'Now what do we do with them? What's the next step?' "

About 275 people attended Thursday's meeting, the second of three about the proposal. The first meeting, in October, addressed objectives the proposal should focus on.

The major obstacle to the plan is money.

"You'll see a lot of pretty pictures, but half of what we're doing is figuring out how to pay for it, getting it built," said Doris Guerrero, a project manager with Hargreaves Associates.

There are no cost estimates for the project yet, said B.G. Clark, an associate at Carter Burgess, which has been contracted to help address the project's financing.

"Our next task is to do a cost estimate," he said. "We're looking at costs for all areas of the project - operation, maintenance, marketing, security, utilities. It does us no good to build it if we can't maintain it."

There are plans for underground and improved surface parking and better pedestrian and DART access near the park's museums.

The Midway would include an amusement park that would be open from April through October, Ms. Jones said. The plan also calls for space for a year-round marketplace.

Hargreaves Associates also recommended converting an area on the north side of the park that is now mostly a lumberyard into a site for a hotel and meeting space.

Ms. Jones said the project would also emphasize rehabilitating the park's historic facilities.

Mr. Clark said restructuring the governing body of the park would be essential to the park's future.

Mr. Hueston said that Thursday was the first time he'd heard of that possibility and that no such recommendation had been made to the city's parks board, which hired Hargreaves Associates with council approval.

Another meeting is scheduled for the summer. Between now and then, the project team will develop strategies to begin work on the project.

Residents urged the city to focus on little steps in the meantime.

Arch C. McColl said that the city needs to start promoting the park now and that citizens should get involved with raising money.

"There's nothing like this in the world, and we're potentially letting it die," he said. "But we can't do it without money. Where are our leaders?"

Mr. McColl said he was starting a fund at his law firm to raise $25,000 for the project.

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