The chairman of HM Capital Partners is keen on Klyde Warren Park as a walkable gathering spot that will connect Uptown with downtown Dallas. Muse is so bullish, in fact, he’s opening a restaurant in the park.
John Muse doesn’t shy away from the word transformative when talking about what Klyde Warren Park means to the city of Dallas. Muse, a member of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation board, says he believes the deck park across Woodall Rodgers Freeway will change the way the city is viewed by residents, visitors, and companies looking to relocate.
Muse is a partner and chairman of Dallas private-equity firm HM Capital Partners LLC, whose predecessor firm was co-founded in 1989 by Muse and Tom Hicks as Hicks, Muse & Co. Muse joined the park foundation board about five years ago, and his family funded the Muse Family Performance Pavilion, a centerpiece of the park.
Muse says he and his wife, Lyn, have traditionally supported education causes—their schools and their kids’ schools. “This project really got our attention, in part, because we had lived in Europe for years, where there are so many wonderful parks in the major cities.”
Residents of most European cities, he says, walk almost everywhere. “In western cities, and especially in Dallas, there are no parks. We felt this would be significant to the city and that it would, hopefully, get people out of their cars and walking.”
Two things about the park resonated particularly with Muse: It connects Uptown and downtown Dallas, and it creates a place for people to gather in front of the city’s growing Arts District.
In planning the deck park, the board worked closely with Dan Biederman, the planner of Bryant Park in New York City. “When you go into
Bryant Park, you find people enjoying all kinds of activities and programs, and that’s what we are planning for this park” Muse says. “We want it to be a great place to hang out, maybe grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.”
The eating part is something that is currently on Muse’s radar screen. He and operating partner John Coleman, the former executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, will establish and operate the park’s signature restaurant. The eatery is still in the planning stages, and Muse says they aren’t expecting to open for several months.
After working on the park project for so many years, it’s a wonderful feeling to see everything coming together, Muse says. “But we still have work to do and there are more funds to raise. We won’t be done until everything about the park is hitting on all eight cylinders.” — Glenda Vosburgh
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In her new role, the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation’s president emeritus plans to take time to enjoy the park she was instrumental in developing.
The opportunity to lead an effort to build a deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway came at a difficult time for Linda Owen, then president of The Real Estate Council. She was still trying to overcome the heartbreaking loss of her husband, Doug, who succumbed to cancer in late 2002, and be a strong source of support for their three children, who were 21, 17, and 16 at the time.
As it turned out, the park taught Owen—and her children—that life does go on.
“Fate smiled on me,” she says. “It gave me a big, hairy, audacious goal to get me back up when I was knocked out.”
After the real estate organization decided to play a “catalytic role” in the park in 2004, Owen spearheaded the project for TREC. By 2008, it no longer made sense for her to split her attention, and she left TREC to become president and CEO of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. Earlier this year, the foundation hired Mark Banta to preside over and operate Klyde Warren Park; Owen was named president emeritus.
“I’m excited to have the flexibility to just enjoy the park and the wonderful friendships that have grown out of our collaboration with literally hundreds of people,” she says.
Heading up the endeavor was both exhilirating and gut-wrenching, Owen says. But every time there was a critical need, some savior would be there. She calls it “a story of great allies finding ways to overcome barriers at every step of the way.”
She’s especially proud of the “extraordinary” private support for a project in the public arena, and says it provides a framework for other initiatives.
“Dallas has other needs that will make the city more competitive and more livable, and we should take an integrated approach to achieving those goals as well,” she says. “Dallas has a reputation now, on the national and international stage, as a city that is open to cooperating
on bold new visions that embrace the future.”
In 2005, when the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation was announced, Owen told people that she intended to celebrate her 60th birthday in the finished park.
She turns 60 next March.
“Not only will I have my birthday party in the park, my grandchildren will have their birthday parties in the park,” she says. “There was a time when I couldn’t foresee how I could survive. But I’ve made it, and I have my grandchildren, and the park, and life is so much better.” —Christine Perez
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The Crescent Real Estate executive has been a driving force behind Klyde Warren Park for more than a decade. He says the experience has taught him to run with good ideas—no matter how big they are.
In 2001, Crescent Real Estate CEO John Goff and Managing Director of Leasing John Zogg were meeting with corporate clients from New York on the 34th floor of Trammell Crow Center in Dallas. The group gathered around the windows, as Zogg pointed out projects under way in the Arts District.
“You guys have no idea,” one of the visitors told the Crescent execs. “You have such tremendous assets, but there’s no connectivity.”
“You’re right,” Goff said, as he stared at the divide between downtown Dallas and Uptown. “Why can’t we cover up that hole?”
That hole, of course, was Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Goff asked Zogg to look into the possibility, and he took up the charge.
“I’m a lifelong Dallasite, and I’m passionate about the city,” Zogg says. “I was frustrated that other cities seemed to be passing us by. The downtowns of Houston and Denver, where Crescent also had holdings, were much more vibrant spots. I thought connecting the central business district with Uptown could help Dallas.”
Zogg formed a steering committee, and Crescent hired a landscape architect to draw up initial plans. The process moved slowly, but Zogg says he knew they were on the right track after a 2003 meeting with an East Coast investment manager in Crescent’s Uptown office complex. Knowing of her interest in the arts, Zogg encouraged her to walk from the Crescent to the newly opened Nasher Sculpture Center.
“This is a woman who walks a mile or more a day in New York and thinks nothing of it,” Zogg says. “But after she scanned the street she said to me, ‘I’m not making that walk.’ It was just three blocks, but she wasn’t willing to go through the war zone of sidewalks and over the freeway moat. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.”
Among the many early supporters of the park was the sculpture garden’s founder and NorthPark Center developer, the late Raymond Nasher, who told Zogg: “This [sculpture center] is so brilliant, but when people come here, they just zoom in and zoom out. I have none of my NorthPark ‘stickiness,” where people spend a half a day. I think the park will give Dallas the ‘stickiness’ it needs.”
Zogg, a co-founder of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, says he has learned a lot from the experience: “It taught me that if there’s a good idea worth exploring, you should run with it—because it can happen.”
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The chairman and CEO of Chase Bank Dallas sees Klyde Warren Park as a place of respite for her employees. She also thinks it will change the “heartbeat of the city.”
Elaine Agather is chairman and CEO of the JPMorgan Chase Bank Dallas Region. Her company donated $3 million to the financing of Klyde Warren Park, in addition to extending it a $10 million line of credit.
Chase’s motivations for the contributions were part altruistic, part practical. The company’s Dallas headquarters are two blocks from the park, and the bank also has a branch at the park’s north corner.
“We overlook [the park’s] space, so we decided we needed to support it in a big way,” Agather says. “We have 15,000 employees in Texas, so it’s a way to give back to our employees.”
Agather hopes the bank’s employees will take advantage of the park by using it to get fresh air during the day. She hopes they’ll bring their families to the park on the weekends, too.
But she and Chase aren’t just interested in what’s in it for their employees, Agather says. They also want to support creating a beautiful, useful space for Dallas as a whole.
She envisions the park as a bridge between many areas of Dallas and as a central gathering place for people who live within walking distance, as well as for Dallas residents who live farther away.
“It’s like the kitchen in a house. It’s where everybody congregates,” Agather says. “I think it makes people from all areas of Dallas feel like they can come down here and walk into the park.”
To help with the park’s financing, Chase extended a $10 million line of credit to the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. It also stands as a testament to the bank’s devotion to the park that it donated $3 million in 2010, after the country’s economic recession was well under way.
In return, one of the park’s main pedestrian paths will be named Chase Promenade.
“What we loved about [the promenade] is it connects all the areas of the park, and we feel like, well, we are a connection, too,” Agather says, explaining the donation.
The banking exec foresees Klyde Warren Park serving not just as a useful thoroughfare and “hangout” for Chase employees, but also as something that will change the essence of Dallas for the better, by making it more accessible. “I think it’s going to change the rhythm, the heartbeat of the city,” she says. “It’s going to be good for our soul.”