A Park with a Purpose: Designed by SWA Group, Southern Gateway Public Green in Dallas Further Advances Community-Forward Cap Parks

Dallas, TX– June 1, 2023 – New green public space poised to become the heartbeat of Dallas, forging equity by “capping” a highway and reconnecting a community.

Image Courtesy HKS

SWA Group announces Phase 1 of Southern Gateway Public Green,  a new five-acre park spanning Interstate 35E in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Set to open in 2024, Southern Gateway Public Green represents a defining move for Dallas’s investment in its future, reconnecting a historic neighborhood that was divided by the highway’s construction in the 1950s. A “cap park,” Southern Gateway Public Green will bring the community together with gathering places where everyone is welcome, provoking environmental, economic, and community revitalization.

Today, cities like Dallas, Texas are taking the lead in leveraging infrastructure investments to create public green spaces over highways with “cap” parks. These parks create public green spaces, provide places for recreation, reflection, and play, and reconnect communities experiencing disparities in opportunity for housing, education, and upward mobility. While not a new approach, cap parks increasingly address some of the past’s socioeconomic and environmental impacts, reconnecting communities that were once severed by 1950s-era construction.

In keeping with the spirit of SWA’s work with Riverside Park South and Park 101, Southern Gateway Public Green (undertaken together with HKS) is part of a $666-million highway reconstruction project, which tempers the widening of Interstate 35 by subverting traffic below an initial 2.8-acre cap park adjacent to the Dallas Zoo. Addressing the fresh concerns of the 21st Century – including pollution, resiliency, and social and economic equity – the project impels new perspectives on the car-centric infrastructure of the midcentury past.

Southern Gateway Public Green is part of a larger effort to revitalize Oak Cliff. The neighborhood has seen significant investment in recent years, primarily in the northern Bishop Arts District. Southern Gateway Public Green will unite North and South Oak Cliff with a pedestrian promenade, a playground, and spaces for dining, retail, and performances – all designed based on public feedback, making the space a true neighborhood asset. The park will also be home to a variety of native plants and trees, as well as educational exhibits about the history of Oak Cliff.

With the park’s proposed new 12th Street Promenade, pedestrian circulation will be literally and figuratively “re-stitched,” reconnecting the critical north and south link. The park’s motto is “A Park with a Purpose” due to its social impact intents: improving the lives of adjacent residents who have much lower educational attainment, income, health outcomes, and park access than other areas of Dallas. This is seen in the park’s Equitable Development Plan, something most parks do not develop. People travelling on I-35 wil have a visual cue that they are entering Dallas, and residents from the many neighborhoods around the park on both sides of the freeway will have new common ground.

Southern Gateway Public Green’s design includes more “topography” than most of the entire city of Dallas, which is generally flat in its terrain. SWA Group incorporated these topographic features with undulating grades and geological formations known locally as “the escarpment,” as well as with walkways that take the visitor to different vistas, making the design distinctly “of its place.” Visitors will have the opportunity to go above the tree line, which opens views to Downtown Dallas as well as to the site itself.

The park is being built through a public-private partnership between the City of Dallas, the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, private donors, and a combination of federal, state, and local grants.

“Southern Gateway Public Green sits at a nexus of opportunity, creating a park to bridge a freeway and unite a once-divided community,” said Chuck Daniel, Dallas Managing principal and lead SWA designer. “The impediment to downtown access is being addressed, as are community concerns about housing and gentrification, as part of the master plan for Oak Cliff. This is a win-win for the local community and for Dallas as a whole. The City is setting a new precedent for green space and connectivity where none previously existed.”

Additional assets:
A selection of visuals is available here.
A video about the project is available here.
More information about Southern Gateway Public Green is available here.

About SWA 
Founded in 1960, SWA is a world-renowned, 100% employee-owned landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm with a mission to designing for a more livable world. We believe that public realm is an essential part of the infrastructure of great cities, and design parks, streets, plazas, and open space in ways that foster vitality, equity, and resilience. The firm’s work varies in scale and character in keeping with each project’s particular setting and client aspirations. SWA has studios in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Laguna Beach, New York, San Francisco, Sausalito, and Shanghai. For more information, please visit www.swagroup.com.

Media Contacts:

Michelle DiLello
Blue Medium, Inc.

Liz Batchelder
SWA Group