$1M Challenge Grant Kicks Off Campaign for I-35E Deck Park in Southern Dallas

On a stretch of I-35E adjacent to the Dallas Zoo, the deck park is intended to transform Southern Dallas and reunify the Oak Cliff community that was split more than 50 years ago when the interstate was constructed.

deck park southern Dallas

The campaign to build a transformative deck park over Interstate 35E in Southern Dallas has gotten its first boost with the completion of a $1 million challenge grant by Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation.

The new park will sit between Ewing and Marsalis Avenues, adjacent to the Dallas Zoo. It’ll mirror similar concepts like downtown’s Klyde Warren Park—which has generated more than $1.3 billion in economic impact since its completion—and the 11th Street Bridge in Washington D.C. 

Southern Gateway, the nonprofit in the public-private partnership with the city of Dallas, said the intent is to reunify the Oak Cliff community, which was split more than 50 years ago when I-35E was constructed.

The challenge grant provides the “critical next steps” needed for the park’s design and a community-based equitable development plan. It’s yet another building block as construction is underway to reconstruct the highway and build the structural supports for the deck.

Leveraging a $500,000 grant from The Eugene McDermott Foundation enabled Southern Gateway to raise the additional $500,000 from foundations and private donors. To complete The Eugene McDermott Foundation challenge grant, early financial support was provided by individual donors and foundations, including the AT&T Foundation, Marilyn Augur Foundation, Sturgis Charitable Trust, Mike & Diane Gruber, Terry Family Foundation, and Wise Family Fund.

“This was a major milestone for the foundation as we look to accelerate the momentum of this project,” Mike Gruber, Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation’s board chair and longtime Southern Dallas supporter, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the The Eugene McDermott Foundation for its early support, which serves as a solid start for the capital campaign.”

The Texas Department of Transportation began planning for the reconstruction of I-35E and the new deck park concept in 2017. Southern Gateway said back then, it helped TxDOT secure $47 million to fund the structural supports and base for the park.

In 2021, TxDOT will present a shovel-ready platform and Southern Gateway will facilitate construction and amenities from the platform, up.

Supporters think the deck park will address the historic north-south city split

In addition to the $1 million challenge funds, the foundation said it has raised roughly $350,000 in seed money for the park. Final design, construction, and initial operating endowment is estimated to cost $28 million—Southern Gateway plans to raise the funds to design, construct, and maintain the new green space.

The park will help address the city’s historic north-south divide, because the interstate’s construction is said to have split the Oak Cliff community and isolated Southern Dallas, causing considerable economic damage to the area. 

Southern Gateway said the park already has stimulated new public investments such as the expansion of the Dallas Streetcar to the park and the Dallas Zoo, as well as proposed hike-and-bike trail extensions. 

The park will bridge two federally-designated Opportunity Zones: areas where investors in new businesses and projects are eligible for tax incentives and other benefits. By drawing investments into a historically underserved area, the park will catalyze economic growth, mobility, and connectivity.

Also, projections show that the park will have an environmental impact through the creation of five acres of new green space, bring educational programming opportunities through DISD partnerships, and increase citywide access as a hub of new connective infrastructure. That includes pedestrian-friendly bridges and complete streets.

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