Construction Begins on Transformational Southern Gateway Park in Oak Cliff

The construction kickoff for the I-35 deck park was celebrated at a recent Public Green Foundation "groundmaking" event. More than 200 community and civic leaders, donors, and partners were on hand to mark the occasion.

Construction officially began this week on the Southern Gateway Park, a transformational bridge park spanning Interstate 35E in Southern Dallas.

The kickoff by the Public Green Foundation at a recent “groundmaking” celebration attracted more than 200 community and civic leaders, donors, and partners.

“This generational project will lead to increased greenspace, significant economic development, and safer, healthier places to live and play,” Southern Gateway’s President and CEO April Allen said at the festivities. “But on a personal level, one reason this project is so important to me is that I want to show the people in this community—my community—that they matter … that they’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.”

“Every person, regardless of where they live, deserves to have beautiful amenities and public spaces where they feel welcome,” Allen added. “That’s what motivates me every day to keep doing whatever it takes to make this vision a reality.”

Southern Gateway President and CEO April Allen leads the “groundmaking” celebration for the new Southern Gateway Park in Dallas. [Photo: Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation]

A game-changing park with major wow factor

In 2021, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved a development agreement for the deck park with the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, and renderings and a map revealed a vision with major wow factor.

The Texas Department of Transportation completed the bridge and related infrastructure earlier this year so that construction of the park itself can begin later this month.

The five-acre “park with a purpose” is scheduled to open in 2025 and will be a key catalyst for closing the opportunity gap that was created when the highway was originally built in the 1950s through the middle of Oak Cliff.

The park, a public/private partnership with the city of Dallas and the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, has support from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and TxDOT.

The event featured remarks from Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and State Sen. Royce West; musical performances by local area school groups; and animal encounters with park neighbor, the Dallas Zoo.

Guests had the opportunity to write a personal message to the park as part of a commemorative art piece and tour the site to learn more about the park’s future amenities.

Southern Gateway Park’s Phase One (right side above, including the hilltop-covered restaurant/retail complex at center) and Phase Two (upper left above). [Image: HKS]

‘Historic investment in infrastructure and equity’

“What I hope historians will say is that this moment in time turned out to be the turning point in how we viewed and treated the southern part of our city,” Johnson said at the event. “This marks the moment we stopped talking about investing in Southern Dallas and actually did it … when we invested in real infrastructure to spur the growth and development not only of the geographic area, but more importantly, the people themselves.”

West echoed Johnson’s sentiments.

“Southern Gateway Park (SGP) signifies a historic investment in infrastructure and equity in Southern Dallas and a revitalized Oak Cliff community. This investment would not have been possible without the partnership and cooperation of every level of government,” he said. “But most importantly, it would not be coming to fruition without the unwavering support from the citizens of Dallas, the voters of Texas and the residents of Oak Cliff who are the inspiration and driving force behind SGP.”

Global design firm HKS and renowned landscape architecture firm SWA led the park’s planning and design.

The foundation said their work resulted in a beautiful, unique, multilevel park that reflects the history and geography of its surrounding neighborhood and responds to community priorities for park features.

Construction is led by a joint venture between McCarthy, a nationally recognized construction firm with prior deck park experience, and EJ Smith Construction, a local and minority-owned firm.

Once open, the foundation said the park will attract an estimated 2 million visitors a year and generate more than $1 billion in economic impact in its first five years.

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