A Beautiful Purpose: Dallas Water Commons Project Will Transform 17 Acres of Wetlands Into a Public Greenspace in The Cedars

The Dallas Water Commons project, slated to break ground in 2024, will transform an industrial site in Dallas' Cedars neighborhood into something both beautiful and purposeful: a public wetlands park with hike and bike lanes that will cleanse and filter 650 million gallons of run-off stormwater each year. A big bonus: protecting the wetlands habitat and the species that live and breed there.

"This is a game changer for Dallas," says Vickie Meeks, a local artist and member of the project’s advisory board.

Dallas is set to get a new park—one that will serve as more than just a place to soak in skyline views.

Just south of downtown on what used to be the banks of the original channel of the Trinity River—where Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa tribes once stopped to water horses—a public-private partnership aims to transform what’s now a stormwater collection ditch into a public greenspace attraction. When finished, it will help protect the wetland habitat that exists there.

“The idea of celebrating water is a really important one,” Vickie Meeks, a Dallas artist and member of the project’s advisory board, said in a statement. “I think now that we have a project that can help bring that kind of focus to the importance of water and how we treat our waterways, this is a game-changer for Dallas.”

From industrial site to ‘beautiful public space’

Rendering: Norm Li

The Dallas Water Commons project was envisioned nearly a decade ago as a design challenge to create more greenspace on city-owned land and link amenities in the area. Now the project is moving closer to a 2024 groundbreaking, which will turn 17 acres of wetlands in The Cedars neighborhood into a park with amenities like hike and bike lanes. It will also serve as a “living classroom” for residents to learn about what wetlands do and what leaders intend the project to help with—water conservation and flood management.

Ultimately, planners say the project—one of the first of its kind in a major U.S. city—will help cleanse and filter around 650 million gallons of run-off stormwater each year. In addition, they hope it will protect the type of habitat that the global Ramsar Convention says is where up to 40% of the world’s species live and breed.

“Dallas Water Commons is a unique project that will transform an urban wetland area and former industrial site into a beautiful public space and outdoor classroom that also functions as a natural water filtrations and flood mitigation system,” David Marquis, an environmental activist working on the project, said in the statement. “All of those things together in one project, that’s something that’s not existing anywhere else.”

Project has $15 million in funding

Rendering: Norm Li

Partners on the Dallas Water Commons project include the city of Dallas, the nonprofit Dallas Wetlands Foundation, and real estate developer Matthews Southwest. So far, $15 million in funding has gone toward the project, with $7.5 million coming from a 2017 bond election and the rest coming from matching funds raised by the Dallas Wetlands Foundation.

“Dallas Water Commons will be a way to bring the natural function and beauty and even the efficiency of a natural system right into the core of an American city,” Tim Dekker CEO of environmental engineering firm LimnoTech, which is a technical partner on the project, said in a statement. “Cities have to figure out what are they going to do and how they are going to develop in ways that work with nature.”

Pre-development photos of the site

Video still: Dallas Water Commons

Video still: Dallas Water Commons

North pond at Dallas Water Commons two days after historic Dallas flooding..

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