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UTA Institute of Urban Studies’ students propose major changes for Dallas’ Fair Park

Friday, June 3, 2016

Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office: 817-272-7075, Cell: 214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

News Topics: architecture, research, urban and public affairs

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Dallas’ Fair Park should be reconfigured to connect major corridors with adjacent neighborhoods and to create pathways that encourage visitors to spend more time near the most popular attractions, according to a new study by UTA College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs students.

An aerial photograph of Fair Park

Students in the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs recently finished a study on Fair Park that would create pathways to encourage visitors to spend more time near the most popular attractions.

The study envisions Fair Park as a vibrant, people-friendly amenity that would serve surrounding neighborhoods and the entire city year-round. To accomplish this, the study calls for removing the existing fence surrounding Fair Park, connecting the historic cultural district with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit D-Link service and an extension of the M-Line Trolley, converting some surface parking lots to programmed park land, replacing other lots with parking structures, and leveraging increased visitor dollars to offset improvement costs. Researchers identified a “loop circulation pattern” that would encourage visitors, especially during the State Fair, to linger in cluster-themed and higher-profit areas.  

The recommendations are detailed in the proposal “Fair Park: The Reinvigoration of a National Treasure,” the result of a five-month study by graduate students affiliated with CAPPA’s Institute of Urban Studies at The University of Texas at Arlington.

CAPPA Dean Nan Ellin initiated the project, which was led by Alan Klein, assistant director of the Institute. The graduate research team included Iman Amini, Priscylla Bento, Gwen Isokpan, Reza Paziresh and Ahoura Zandiatashbar. The study was supported by Dallas-based Foundation for Community Empowerment, which conducts and sponsors research and advocacy on issues affecting Southern Dallas.

Proposed Fair Park zones

Proposed Fair Park zones

“We want our students to lend their talents to real life issues,” Ellin said. “The Fair Park area is an ideal setting for them to collaborate and bring their expertise in urban planning, public policy, architecture and landscape design together for the larger good.”

Jack Reese, Foundation for Community Empowerment president and chief executive officer, said, “We were honored to work with the UTA student research team on this project. We particularly respect their approach of engaging neighborhood leaders as well as business and civic leaders, working with academic objectivity, and looking to national best practices. Their study offers the research and ideas necessary for a robust public conversation about the best possible future for Fair Park and its neighbors.”

The Fair Park study highlights UTA’s commitment to shaping sustainable urban communities as outlined in the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

Originally built in East Dallas in 1886, Fair Park was purchased by the city in 1904.  It is home to the State Fair of Texas and includes what is considered the largest intact concentration of 1930s-era exposition buildings and public art remaining in the United States. It is also recognized as one of the most significant sites in the world for Art Deco architecture.

In recent years, Dallas leaders have considered various plans to increase Fair Park use by the public, create new revenue streams, and identify ways to address maintenance needs for some of the historic structures.

The CAPPA student research team approached the current Fair Park study through a comparative analysis of a number of highly regarded and successful signature parks including Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, Millennium Park in Chicago, and Central Park in New York City as well as parks in international locations such as Paris, Brussels, and Luxembourg.

Researchers compared current State Fair circulation patterns to amusement parks such as Disney World in Orlando and and Six Flags Over Texas that use loop circulation patterns to expose visitors to more of the parks attractions. The team also considered features of other successful state fairs including Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The proposed loop circulation pattern is commonly used in amusement parks and other public places and would allow fairgoers to visit multiple locations without backtracking so that more visitors would pass through more areas, including the Midway with its amusement rides and game booths, in a manner that is designed to improve visitor experience while maximizing per capita revenue.

The UTA team engaged with community leaders, conducted focus groups and town hall meetings, and met individually with Fair Park tenants, while exploring national best practices to arrive at their conclusions.

Other components of the proposal include:

  • A new ticket packaging process that would allow visitors easier access to venues and provide a more efficient way of tracking attendance by the State Fair and other venues.
  • A trolley loop connecting Fair Park, Downtown, the Arts District and Deep Ellum.
  • Walking and bicycle paths to and within the park.
  • Attraction of research consortia and other educational and cultural entities to occupy the historic buildings.
  • An innovation and education hub that would fuse art and technology.
  • Consolidation of parking, thereby reducing the “heat island effect.”
  • Conversion of the Old Mill Inn Restaurant to a thriving visitor’s center.
  • Year-round multigenerational programming and events.

The full UTA CAPPA Fair Park report can be found here and the research team welcomes additional feedback to continue refining its proposals. Contact Alan Klein at the Institute of Urban Studies at awklein@uta.edu.

About CAPPA

Established in 2015, the UTA College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs unites the former schools of Architecture and Urban and Public Affairs and offers  programs in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, public administration, and public policy. The College includes the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, the Digital Architectural Research Consortium, the Institute of Urban Studies, the Arlington Urban Design Center based at Arlington City Hall, and the Parallel Construction design/build program.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a R1 – Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 54,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.