Why North Dallas Should Care About the Future of Fair Park

White people on their annual pilgrimage to Fair Park

CandysDirt.com is sponsoring an important panel discussion this week on Thursday, Aug. 25, on the future of Fair Park and why everyone in North Dallas and across the city should be fully informed about the current plan to turn 277 acres of our city over to a private entity. Full details on the meeting are below, but it will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at King of Glory Lutheran Church at 6411 LBJ Freeway, west of Hillcrest, east of Preston, north side access road, Sanctuary.


We have issues. The City of Dallas and Dallas County are going backwards economically, not forward, at an alarming rate. In fact, experts have called Dallas “… the second worst-performing urbanized county in the U.S.”

Dallas County ranks second to last in job growth, and sixth to last of all urbanized counties in wage growth.

Given all the forces pressing on the city budget, one has a right to be concerned and ask questions about any city investment that puts taxpayers on the hook.

We are concerned. We love Dallas! So we have gathered some experts to enlighten us.

The issues: Certain leaders want to sign over a $1 billion contract funded by taxpayers to the Fair Park Texas Foundation to run Fair Park for the next 30 years. In fact, they want to make it happen next month.

There are those who say the plan is deeply flawed, is not a sound public-private partnership, and has no coherent vision.

The process and plan were developed behind closed doors with little transparency and seem to be getting pushed through the Dallas City Council lickety split.


Because the large parcel of land (277 acres!) is such choice real estate, we at CandysDirt.com want to know more. We want to examine and implement the best possible plan for revitalizing Fair Park and its neighborhoods. We want developers to see opportunity for growth in the area, and we would love to see a thriving neighborhood that not only invigorates and includes the people who live there, but also adds revenue to the city through property and other taxes.

With all we are on the hook for in terms of financing our city, implementing a half-baked plan could be a very dangerous move for the Dallas city budget.

We do not want to join the growing list of cities in near financial ruin, such as Detroit and Chicago.

Fair Park Ferris Wheel SM

Dallas does not compete effectively with the surrounding suburbs for business opportunities.  The examples are numerous: Boeing, Toyota, AT&T Cowboys Stadium, Live Nation’s state-of-the-art Music Factory in Irving.

Southern Dallas, with half our land area but only 15 percent of our tax base, languishes. Fair Park is a potential golden jewel less than 1 mile from downtown.  Yet the city of Dallas loses about $20 million per year on Fair Park, including the bond amortization.

In its current condition, Fair Park costs the city in lost opportunity. Those costs are estimated at more than $1 billion, thousands of year-round jobs and over $100 million in recurring tax revenues.

Experts say the proposed Walt Humann plan, if implemented, delivers unfortunate financial consequences to all Dallas taxpayers. Why focus on deferred maintenance at Fair Park instead of a grand overall vision and great community park — which would be economic generators of major change not only for the immediate neighborhood but for all of Dallas? We risk losing billions of dollars to the Dallas economy.

There are many successful examples of positive economic effects from revitalizing neighborhoods and creating from within, spurring real estate developments to attract entrepreneurs. NYC’s High Line, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and Chrissy Field in the Presidio in San Francisco are just a few examples.

And as every real estate investor knows, you don’t fix up empty buildings until you have a tenant and know its needs. To be perfectly frank, sometimes you don’t even fix them up.

We are not saying the Humann plan is bad, we are saying it is incomplete. And we want to know more. We have the chance now, in a climate of bountiful real estate revenue, in a city that is growing before our very eyes, to turn Fair Park into a beautiful real green park venue, with people, vibrance and activities all year round.

I have lived in Dallas since 1980, and believe it or not, at one point McKinney Avenue was not a place you would want to live on or drive through. The development of West Village and Alan McDonald’s City Homes completely changed the area into one of the most successful real estate developments in the country.

Come to King of Glory Lutheran Church at 6411 LBJ Freeway, west of Hillcrest, east of Preston, north side access road, this Thursday, August 25, from 7 to 9 o’clock p.m. in the Sanctuary, and hear out five independent real estate experts on the possibilities for Fair Park:


Don Williamsformer Chairman and CEO of Trammell Crow Company. Also founded the nonprofits Foundation for Community Empowerment, Frazier Revitalization Inc.,  and the Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas to support revitalization of low-income neighborhoods in Southern Dallas. For this work, he received the prestigious Dallas Linz Award.

Byron Carlock

Byron Carlock, leader of Price Waterhouse Cooper’s U.S. real estate practice. With 28 years of experience, Byron has worked on strategic planning and property transactions to capital formation and business plan execution. He has expertise and deep knowledge in governance, board matters, mergers and acquisitions and corporate conflict. Byron was CEO and President of CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc., Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Post Properties and Managing Director for Crow Holdings International. He has an MBA from Harvard University.

eric johnson

Eric Johnson, Texas state representative from District 100, vice chair of the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, and a member of the powerful House Calendars Committee. Another Harvard graduate, in 2012, Representative Johnson was named to the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and joined an ACYPL delegation that visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories, meeting with current and emerging leaders in the region. In December 2012, Representative Johnson was the only member of the Texas Legislature to participate in President Obama’s first ever meeting with a delegation of African American state legislators. He was also selected as a Rodel Fellow by the Aspen-Rodel Institute in Public Leadership. He holds a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt, is the youngest woman ever to have served as a Dallas councilmember. Known as an independent leader who focused on improving the lives of everyday citizens and ensuring fiscal responsibility, Ms. Hunt is well-respected by Dallas media. In 2010, the League of Women Voters of Dallas honored Angela with the Virginia MacDonald Leadership Award, which is “given to a League member who has exhibited courage in working for change and who inspired leadership in others.” Prior to being elected on the Dallas City Council, Angela spent eight years as a commercial litigator at the law firm of McKool Smith. She has served on several city boards and commissions; served as executive vice president of the Dallas Homeowners League; founded the M Streets Conservation District, and served on the executive board of Preservation Dallas.

Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson, award-winning city and high rise editor at CandysDirt.com.

Stay tuned every day this week for more information on all our social media channels #DecisionFairPark

7 Comment

  • This is a superb assembly of talent.

    I am hoping that this discussion will both be streamed and preserved for viewing on the web via utube or Amazon or their functional equivalents.

    I suggest that the solution to this, as with most problems facing the City of Dallas, is in examining the best practices
    management that other municipalities around the world have successfully implemented.

    Let’s just make sure that we do not evolve with a spectacular Dallas Fair Park just as The City of Dallas files for bankruptcy protection. That magnificent parquet floor perhaps should have been installed after that leaking roof had been replaced.

    Once Dallas was considered the most effectively managed municipality on the globe. That was when all heeded the overarching priorities established by garnering the input of over 100,000 Dallasites to form the foundation for the Goals For Dallas, guided by former Mayor J. Erik Jonnson, who was also CEO of Texas Instruments.

    • I am surprised that the above article didn’t point out the most obvious reason why companies like Toyota and Boeing are not moving to Dallas, is because they know how horrible the Dallas Independent School District is, and don’t want to burden their employees with the high cost of private schooling in order to get a good education. DISD needs to be completely dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up with a clean slate: new staff, new leaders, new priorities, and a new organizational structure and philosophy. Probably means making it less democratic. There needs to be a “czar” to make this happen. Sadly, I don’t think it will happen. So companies will continue to relocate to Irving, Plano and Frisco.

      • What’s interesting to me is to read about suburban corporate campuses that are relocating back to the urban cores they abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s. Mc Donalds for example is moving out of their custom designed, park-like setting in the tony Chicago suburb of Oakbrook to relocate back to Chicago’s urban core. They’re taking over Oprah Winfrey’s old Harpo Studios building on the west side of the city. Mc Donalds says they’re moving to recapture a younger workforce more likely to be in teh city than the suburbs. No talk of schools. Are the corporate campuses moving to Plano behind the times?

        • I don’t think that they are behind the times, it is that they are just two very different kinds of businesses.If McDonalds wants younger employees, then those employees don’t yet need to worry about quality of schools, and Chicagos schools are probably better than Dallas’s. Which isn’t saying a lot. Toyota can’t just decide to have a younger work force, they need to retain people with experience. Making cars is a lot more demanding than those burgers that McDonalds makes. There might be younger people living downtown Chicago, but not in Downtown Dallas. Downtown Dallas only has expensive apartments, condos and lofts.

          • It applies differently to different types of businesses as well. Toyota makes cars for the ur-suburban model of person, so naturally they would want to relocate to a quality suburb where driving is still on the upswing.

            Those same characteristics may not apply to every business.

      • mm

        There are pockets within the system where the schools are terrific, actually, you just have to find them.

      • mm

        Chris: You’re incorrect about Dallas ISD. In fact, my son just started Kindergarten in a dual-language immersion program inside a Dallas ISD elementary. It’s so sought-after by parents that the program fills up fast. Just look at the middle-class families that are flocking to Dallas ISD because the district is embracing innovative concepts and programs, a philosophy that is earning the district national recognition.