University Park started as a cluster of homes surrounding Southern Methodist University in 1915. The homes received utility services from the University until 1924, when the homeowners sought annexation into the Town of Highland Park, and later, Dallas. They were refused by both!
So UP community leaders rolled up their sleeves and organized to incorporate as a separate, individual city. On April 24, 1924, voters approved the measure by a 5:1 margin.
Municipal bonds were issued for the installation of a new water supply system, street paving, and the construction of a new city hall and fire station. University Park encompassed 515 acres, 380 homes, and 1,200 residents.
By 1945, University Park grew to a population of over 20,000 residents. Now Dallas wanted to annex University Park into its boundaries. It was one of the largest votes in UP’s history, but annexation was denied by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin.
In 1946 an election to adopt a Home Rule Charter was held, but the measure failed and the city continued to operate as a General Law city. In 1989 voters approved a Home Rule Charter which officially adopted a council-manager form of government and expanded the three-member board of Commissioners into a five-member city council.
University Park is home to three significant upscale shopping centers: Snider Plaza, the Plaza at Preston Center, and the Miracle Mile. Snider Plaza is an eclectic community hub filled with shops, salons, and restaurants all anchored by a grocery store. The Miracle Mile is similar in composition, but is sidled along Lovers Lane, a well-trafficked thoroughfare in, out, and around University Park. Preston Center is where you’ll find both small, locally owned boutiques as well as sought-after national brands.
The city, like the name suggests, has several parks, some of which are smaller than a city block. Others, like Germany Park, Goar Park, and Curtis Park are used as practice fields for local sports groups, as well as Highland Park ISD.
Speaking of schools, Highland Park ISD is one of the highest-rated school districts in the state, if not the nation. University Park has two elementary campuses — University Park Elementary and Hyer Elementary — that feed into the intermediate, middle, and high school campuses shared with Highland Park to the south.
University Park tends to be more affordable than Highland Park, and more and more multifamily and denser developments are moving in to the city. One notable example is Crescent Estates’ Courtyards at Normandy.
Since the 1940s, the population and area of University Park have remained relatively stable at 22,000 residents and 2,350 acres (4.7 square miles). The city is now surrounded by Dallas on three sides and the Town of Highland Park to the south. The city’s unique character, high property values, and low tax rate have been steadily maintained.