Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering Group has gifted the city’s Klyde Warren Park with an $8 million donation that will bring the nonprofit group that operates and manages the park, the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, one considerable step closer to realizing an expansion of the heralded freeway-capping green space. Designed by recent National Design Award winner OJB Landscape Architecture, Jacobs served as structural engineer for the complex, years-in-the-making project.
The name rights-securing donation marks the largest corporate gift in over a decade for a downtown Dallas project. The announcement also lands eight years to the day after the park debuted to the public and two years after the planned expansion was revealed—and to some criticism. A press release from the park announcing the gift noted that October is historically an “important month in the evolution of Klyde Warren Park”
Sporting an estimated price tag of $100 million, the expansion would add 1.65 acres to the western edge of the 5.2-acre park, which opened to significant fanfare and curiosity in 2012. Linking the downtown Arts District with Uptown Dallas, the park famously blankets an above-grade section of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway and is a hub for food trucks, outdoor recreation, and community gatherings. The extension would also be located directly above the freeway. In the press release, Jody Grant, chairman of the board of Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, referred to the expansion as “a project we believe is vital to enhancing the connectivity of our urban core.”
In addition to its gift, Jacobs is also, naturally, working on the expansion. “[…] Because of the success of Phase 1 and the valuable lessons learned, Jacobs will leverage that experience for the future design and build of the Park expansion. The same team who worked on Phase 1 will work on Phase 2,” elaborated the firm in its own news release. (To be clear, OJB is not involved with the expansion project.)
The new swath of parkland will be dubbed Jacobs Lawn and feature a three-level, 20,000-square-foot event pavilion with a visitors center, “a Rockefeller Center-sized ice rink” during the winter months per local new source CBS DFW, and 36,000 square feet of outdoor space for festivals, pop-up markets, and the like. Construction is expected to kick off in late 2021 and last three years. Per the Dallas Morning News, the ice rink will be designed in conjunction with local professional ice hockey franchise the Dallas Stars.
As noted by the Morning News, Jacobs, one of the top five most highest-earning architecture/engineering firms, is a relatively new arrival in the Metroplex having relocated its longtime headquarters from Pasadena, California, to Dallas in 2016.
“We know that developing people-centered infrastructure builds strong, vibrant communities and increases value for society as a whole,” said Steve Demetriou, chair and CEO of Jacobs, in a statement. “Klyde Warren Park has helped transform Dallas, and everyone who works and lives in the community has a responsibility to help it continue to thrive. The Park—and soon The Jacobs Lawn—is a place where everyone is welcome and diversity is celebrated, which is an integral part of Jacobs’ culture.”
The gift from Jacobs is a crucial one in that it puts the project funding at the halfway mark—$50 million—and enables construction on the freeway deck to officially kick off. It also comes at a time when fundraising was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. “This gift will get us back in the game,” Grant told the Morning News.
Drawing in an estimated 10 million visitors in its eight-year existence, the economic impact that Klyde Warren Park since opening has had on Dallas has been vast—an estimated $2.5 billion, per the park. Over 1,300 free public events and programs have been hosted at the park although the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the cancellation of many large gatherings including, most recently, an open-air screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As reported by the Morning News, the park has also been forced to reduce its operating budget by 40 percent and invest heavily in new cleaning protocols while staying open seven days a week.
Other major donors to the expansion project include energy billionaire Kelcy Warren and his wife, Amy. Warren donated $10 million to the original park project, which was named after his then-ten-year-old son who was put on once-a-month clean-up duty as part of the naming contract.