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Future of Fair Park to highlight Black culture

Michael McGee | 6/19/2014, 8:04 p.m.
“The mayor and I have some great news to tell you together,” Councilmember Carolyn R. Davis told the crowd gathered ...
Councilmember Carolyn R. Davis and Mayor Mike Rawlings unveil sweeping changes and rebuilding of MLK Boulevard and Fair Park, June 10. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

“The mayor and I have some great news to tell you together,” Councilmember Carolyn R. Davis told the crowd gathered at the front gate of Fair Park. “I think this is a wonderful occasion.”

The announcement that the District 7 councilwoman was so enthusiastic about on June 10 was the proclamation that major improvements and attractions are coming to Fair Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.

From the perspective of local businesses, perhaps the biggest item presented at the media conference was the revelation by Mayor Mike Rawlings that the city had reached “an agreement in principal” with the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma for a five-year extension of the Texas-OU football game. This agreement keeps the Red River Showdown in the Cotton Bowl through the year 2025.

“When you do things right, people pay attention, and people come and spend money,” the mayor said.

During the conference Rawlings also touched upon the assets of Fair Park and what was next for the historical attraction.

“It’s one of the top venues in America,” he proclaimed. “Time and time again, it’s articulated as one of the great urban spaces. We have over 3 million people coming to Fair Park every year. The question is, ‘What do you do with it?’”

Rawlings stated that the answer was to rebuild, renovate and innovate.

One change coming is to create Afro-centric streetscapes along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard through funds provided by the 2012 bond election.

In addition, last year the Dallas City Council concluded that the boulevard and Fair Park should blend visually. The end result will be a merging of the Art Deco design of Fair Park and an Afro-centric theme of MLK Boulevard.

The first phase of the plan will begin at the MLK and Malcolm X Boulevard, intersection and should be completed before the 2014 State Fair. Phase two will begin in early 2015 and will start at Grand Avenue and J. B. Jackson Jr. Boulevard.

“There’s no reason this can’t be the most beautiful avenue in Dallas, for Fair Park,” Rawlings insisted. “One of the great Americans is Dr. King. His street needs to look great.”

Already in place as part of the larger Fair Park plan are Las Vegas-style water shows at the Esplanade fountains and a lighting scheme similar to that currently on display nightly in Highland Park Village.

An event called “Fair Park Sparks!” held June 13 featured a one-million lights-and-fountain show as well as musical acts such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Sugar Ray. The event not only highlighted the work already done for the area but also the ambition of the plan that Rawlings and Davis have laid out.

The mayor explained that, in addition to some of the more cosmetic changes, there will be weekly events at Fair Park, an area for food trucks, and a bicycle-sharing program that will be implemented for the convenience of the event attendees.

“You can get off DART – you come, rent a bike, ride around Fair Park and the neighborhood, and put it back,” he said. “You won’t have to bring your bike down.”