In Dallas, a Park Bridging a Highway

General / People / Places / June 22, 2015

A walk on a rickety bridge over an eight-lane highway in Dallas led architect Jim Burnett to one of the most rewarding landscape projects of his career.

He was there to work on landscape designs for Robert A.M. Stern’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. Trying to reach Renzo Piano’s Nasher Museum, he had to cross that bridge with a developer from Crescent Real Estate.

“As we were walking back, we stood on the bridge and he asked if people would walk across this freeway with those 18-wheelers down below,” the founder of the Office of James Burnett said.

“‘No,’ I said.”

Burnett was asked to conduct a study to find a solution to the problem. He went back to the office, pulled together some models and some ideas, then presented them.

The solution? A five-acre park laid across the top of the freeway, with native plants that use a minimal amount of water, performance and event areas, a dog park, and eventually. a restaurant designed by Tom Phifer, master of light and space. More significantly, the park creates a verdant link between arts and downtown districts – and bridges socio-economic barriers in the process.

Burnett submitted his proposal to the Real Estate Council in Dallas, seeking a one-million-dollar grant issued every other year. And he won it.

“Once we got it to being feasible for traffic and we had a budget and knew what would happen, the committee said to open it up to competition,” he says. “There were 24 firms at first, and that went down to five. We interviewed for it, and won.”

The project opened in 2013. Since then, real estate values as far as three blocks deep into the surrounding areas are up 50 percent. Office rents have risen between 30 and 60 percent. And an anticipated 500,000 visitors in a year has in fact topped one million.

“We wanted to make a park for all the people, and one that was well-programmed,” he says.

And so they did. Along the way, they’ve earned their share of recognition. Earlier this month, the firm announced that it had been named the 2015 Landscape Architecture Firm Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the highest honor the organization bestows.

It’s recognizes a distinctive body of work created during the firm’s past 26 years.

And the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas is one of the best in its portfolio.

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Mike Welton

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