Proposed $100M parking garage could plant seed for downtown Dallas park

A downtown Dallas developer envisions an eight-level parking structure that would be covered with a massive media screen. The parking garage would span Pacific Avenue.
A downtown Dallas developer envisions an eight-level parking structure that would be covered with a massive media screen. The parking garage would span Pacific Avenue.

rwilonsky@dallasnews.com
Published:A�21 April 2014 10:57 PM
Updated:A�22 April 2014 10:49 AM

Dallas has spent millions over the years acquiring a downtown parking lot it wants to turn into a park but doesna��t have the $10 million in fertilizer it needs to make the grass grow on Pacific Plaza, which remains little more than a car-crowded slab of blacktop.

Downtown developer Shawn Todd says hea��s got a plan that doesn’t just plant a park, but also a sprawling eight-level parking structure stretching over Pacific Avenue that will alleviate the parking shortage in that part of downtown a�� and bring in a grocery store as well.
The a�?iconic structure,a�? in Todda��s words, would be covered with a massive media screen with a digital ticker-tape scroll like the one in Times Square and cost upward of $100 million. He insists he can and will fund the whole thing by himself.

a�?This is an expensive project because youa��re spanning over a road system, youa��re never touching the Pacific Plaza designated land,a�? Todd said. a�?And I am not asking the city of Dallas for one tax incentive, not one abatement, not one cent of TIF money. Ia��m not asking for anything. Nothing. This is new construction, and it doesna��t need it. When youa��re buying old buildings, you need it. This doesna��t need it.a�?

What it does need is an existing park: 31-year-old Aston Park, a triangle of cracked concrete, desiccated tree trunks and dirt at Pacific Avenue, Harwood and Live Oak streets.

Todda��s plans call for building part of his garage and grocery on the existing Aston Park, which hea��s proposing to buy from the city at a�?fair market appraised value.a�? Todd says the money from the sale could go toward Pacific Plaza.

Willis Winters, head of the citya��s Park and Recreation Department, says that will be up to the Park Board, which may be reluctant to sell parkland, even if ita��s to get a much bigger a�� and much greener a�� park in return, and one the city wouldna��t have to build or tend to once ita��s completed, a la the deck park over Woodall Rodgers.

a�?The model for Klyde Warren Park has certainly been successful, so wea��re open-minded towards it,a�? Winters said.
Todd said he hopes to capitalize on the a�?synergya�? of the deck parka��s success.

a�?Our city was built with the phrase: Let the dirt fly,a�? said Todd, who converted the circa-1929 U.S. Post Office and Court House at 400 N. Ervay into a zero-vacancies apartment building. a�?The ability to pass the hat and fund $10 million for the park shouldna��t be that difficult.a�?

Todda��s plan, drawn up by HKS Architects, also calls for razing the 17-story, 62-year-old Corrigan Tower at 1900 Pacific Ave., which is currently owned by John Kirtland.

Last fall, Kirtland initially proposed planting a parking structure on Pacific Plaza itself, but Winters and other city officials nixed that idea, insisting they had no interest in sacrificing parkland or subsidizing a parking lot. Kirtland also owns the next-door Tower Petroleum Building, which he plans to convert into a boutique hotel. He confirms that hea��s agreed to sell Corrigan to Todd.

a�?And I am donating every penny of profit to the park, so I wona��t make a penny off this transaction,a�? Kirtland says. a�?A park is just as important for the hotel guests. So is parking. And restaurants and places to shop.a�?

Of course, Todda��s plans for the development are all preliminary, pending approval from various departments a�� among them transportation, economic development, parks, planning and zoning, the Landmark Commission and, eventually, the Dallas City Council. Winters says there are other developers pitching the city their own proposals, but Dallas City Hall sources say Todda��s is the only practical solution so far, and the only one thata��s financially and physically viable.

a�?What we now have on the table is an answer to a whole lot of different questions,a�? said John Crawford, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc., which has been working with Todd. a�?Wea��ve got an opportunity to convert a surface lot into a lovely park that will accentuate our continued live-work-and-play concept, and wea��ve got a big demand for parking, and this will help address that. Ita��s kind of the topping on the cake for that part of downtown.a�?

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