Fair Park esplanade. (Photo: Michael Cagle/Preservation Dallas)

Fair Park

Is Dallas on the Verge of Finally Getting Fair Park Right?

Just before the New Year deadline, a third private entity, which includes the brains behind Bryant Park redo, submitted a bid to take over management of Fair Park.

According to the Dallas Morning News, a private group bidding to take over management of Fair Park turned in its application just two hours before the end-of-year deadline. It’s the third group to throw its hat in the ring, and it is a juggernaut.

The team includes a real estate company (Trammell Crow Co.), a South Dallas non-profit (City for Good), a world-renowned park planner (Dan Biederman, the brains behind Bryant and Klyde Warren Parks), and a major entertainment venue manager (Spectra, which is owned by Comcast and operates entertainment venues throughout the United States, including the site of the California State Fair).

That just about checks all the boxes — from management experience to forward-thinking urban planning to roots in South Dallas — that you would want to see in a group trying to turn a neglected historic gem into a year-round attraction and community asset. In spite of the involvement of the Trammell Crow Co., the DMN also reports that former Trammell Crow CEO Don Williams, who has been an outspoken proponent of opening the Fair Park privatization effort to bidders, is not involved in this new effort.

And just like that, in a few short months, the Fair Park privatization effort went from looking like Dallas’ usual backroom, insider-deal brokering to an in-the-open public process with a gaggle of qualified and forward-thinking experts vying for the opportunity to steer Fair Park towards a brighter future.

The new group will compete against the Fair Park Texas Foundation, led by former Hunt Oil exec Walt Humann. Humann’s group, it was assumed, was originally supposed to be handed the keys to Fair Park from the City Council before a legal challenge to the city’s bidding process forced City Hall to open the process up to competition. The first group to throw their hat in the ring was the Oak Cliff Foundation team which includes developer Monte Anderson, urban planner Patrick Kennedy, and former Dallas Summer Musicals president Michael Jenkins, who also runs a amusement company.

What comes next is still a little up in the air. Just before the end of the year, city staff decided they needed to hire an outside group to evaluate the three bids. The city plans on contracting with that group by February. Then the processes for submitting plans will be finalized.

Regardless of who wins the bid, the way the process has evolved is a good sign for the way Dallas does business and it bodes well for the future of Fair Park and the city in general.

 

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