The city is currently working on unprecedented updates to the string of Turtle Creek parks bracketed by the Reverchon Park ballfield off Maple Avenue and the Kalita Humphreys Theater at Blackburn. Regardless of whether you view the city’s plans positively or not, they will bring thousands of additional visitors – and their cars – to the area for a variety of events and activities.
I have repeatedly criticized the city for not having plans to deal with parking and traffic – and then this happened late yesterday.
An extraordinary Park Board meeting presented a solution for those traffic and parking issues. Fair warning, like me, most will find the solution unpalatable. The early-stage proposal involves the construction of a pair of nine-story parking garages at the Blackburn and Maple ends. They’d then be connected via an aerial tram/gondola system running above the parks and connecting streets.
An Alternative to Walking
The thought is that visitors would park at either end of the system and then ride a gondola to their event. This would centralize parking while also minimizing the amount of land taken up by today’s single-level ground parking. They say it would also have the added benefit of splitting traffic hotspots between the two garages.
Dallas-based TLA Architecture was commissioned to create the drawings which were presented by Marissa Oliver, principal at the firm. She said, “The aerial nature of the system reduces foot traffic along Turtle Creek Boulevard safeguarding pedestrians who may have had too much to drink.” And that, “placing parking at both ends would spread congestion more evenly.”
The city is relying on the parks’ private developers to supply the traffic and parking studies required to appropriately size the garages (which could become larger) and the number of gondola lines needed for efficient visitor movement. Initial plans call for the nine-story garages to be connected via separate north and south gondola lines that form a large circle much like a ski lift.
What should have been surprising (but wasn’t) were the nodding heads of the Park Board during the presentation. We must remember the January city council approval to quintuple the Reverchon Park ballfield and the more recent plan underway to restore the Kalita Humphries Theater while also redeveloping the surrounding area. The city believes Turtle Creek parks are just something to monetize – replacing natural green with a more monetary shade.
Speaking of money, representatives from DART were also on hand to show their support and possible funding to connect the service to the DART network. To serve riders, they’d extent their digital ticketing options or issue paper tickets from machines located at each stop.
The city would collect parking fees from the garages.
Steady Stream of Revenue
The Dallas park system is woefully underfunded and hell-bent on self-sufficiency. To that end, the city plan also includes a provision to sell naming rights and advertising space on the gondolas as well as skinning the parking garages in electronic billboards. The effect was not dissimilar to New York’s Times Square and would light up the area for blocks. They even proposed “televising” Reverchon Park events on the Kalita Humphries garage to entice visitors to linger at the park’s coming restaurants and bars.
One Park Board member floated the idea of constructing high-rises on top of the parking garages for affordable housing. This idea was quickly nixed in a rare moment of sanity at this meeting.
As the meeting was breaking up, I asked about the boats visible in the renderings. I was told that they were working with the health department to develop hygiene standards to operate food boats to ply the creek. They’d be similar to food trucks but customers would enjoy a quick meal while motoring up and down Turtle Creek for a fun, casual meal.
The boats would be allowed to serve alcohol until 2am on weekends but not able to play amplified music. However non-amplified music was allowable.
Unlike the Venice-like boats shown in their renderings, a quick search found food boats looking more like the above image. Flat-bottomed boats cruising in shallow waters with a small kitchen at one end and seating at the other. While most of these (tacky?) services are found in beach towns, trendier food truck fare is envisioned for Turtle Creek.
Oliver revealed, “We’ve had a mixed-bag of interest from pizza joints to white-tablecloth establishments angling for a uniquely romantic experience.”
One restaurant ready to sign-up was Deep Ellum’s Brick & Bones. Since they remain open for take-out, I walked over for a taste and a chat. Quite good fried chicken with stellar Habanero, Bacon Mac (and Cheese). When asked what interested them in the Turtle Creek location they responded, “Parks are made for picnics and picnics aren’t picnics without fried chicken.” Well, there’s that.
What might have been unbelievable a few months ago is now sadly all too believable. The city is seeking more and more public-private partnerships to convert parkland to Disneyland because they’re too broke to maintain what they have.
The meeting was informational in nature as the proposals took away action items. Stakeholders were asked to return with revenue projections from the parking garages, food boats, gondolas, plus expected sponsorship and advertising revenues.
This horrific proposal must be stopped. And today, April Fools Day, is the day to start.