Built by Longhorns, Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park Wins Another Award


Over the past three years, a park built over a sunken highway in Dallas has become one of the biggest urban planning success stories in the country. Cities like Boston and Washington are now looking to emulate the model of Klyde Warren Park, which connects Dallas’ previously starkly divided downtown neighborhoods and has become a major attraction for the city.

The latest of the park’s numerous accolades is the prestigious Urban Open Space Award it received last month. In its award announcement, the Urban Land Institute praised the park for “bridging the downtown Dallas cultural district with burgeoning mixed-use neighborhoods, reshaping the city, and catalyzing economic development.”

No surprise, then, that a group of Longhorns was the driving force behind the project. Rob Walters, BA ’80, JD ’83, Life Member, remembers looking out from the window of his downtown office to the strip of highway dividing the city. “It was a real gash between the two sides of the town,” Walters says. “It was not unlike I-35 in Austin, although a little different. There was always this lore in the city that maybe someday, somebody would do something about it.”

In fact, a small group that would become the board of the park was doing something about it, and Walters joined them. Among the other UT graduates there from the start were Jody Grant, MBA ’61, PhD ’70, Life Member, who gave critical seed money and business acumen; John Zogg, BA ’85, Life Member, who helped get the real estate community on board with the project; and Linda Owen, BA ’74, JD ’78, who led the development effort as the park’s first president and CEO.

“We shot for the moon,” Walters says. “We hired the best landscape architect in the country, we hired the best of the best in all arenas and didn’t take no for an answer.”

Inspired by Bryant Park in New York, Klyde Warren Park is heavily programmed with free activities of all kinds. On the schedule for this Wednesday were visiting food trucks, a lunchtime concert, Zumba in the evening, and a CPR class. There’s also a restaurant, a dog park, a water playground for kids, a reading and games room, and, crucially, very clean restrooms.

All that requires a lot of time, money, and planning. “We built a park, now we’re running a business,” Walters says. “We’re working on our business model with sponsorships, memberships, restaurant revenue, and more.”

These days the view from Walters’ office window is a little different. “When I see kids of every background playing together in the park, those are the moments I get the biggest kick out of,” he says. “We wanted to build the ‘front lawn’ of Dallas, and that’s what we did.”

Photo by Thomas McConnell


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