The man tasked with crafting the latest master plan sees a chance to create a space that invites the city in.
The urban designer from Minnesota saw Fair Park for the first time on Aug. 13. Before his arrival, John Slack had read nearly everything he could on the subject — musty histories, dusty master plans, racist reports penned in the ‘60s, a far more recent proposal authored by college students who suggested a future for a place more past tense than present. He knew as much about Fair Park as any stranger could from a distance and more than most in this city.
But it wasn’t until his visit, on a 100-degree Tuesday, that he saw it with his own eyes. And then …
“I was …” Here, during our conversation this week, Slack took a moment, to make sure he used the right word.
“I was surprised,” said the landscape architect based out of architecture firm Perkins & Will’s Minneapolis office. “There is no access to the park from the surrounding neighborhoods, which look underserved. There’s a fence around the park. The gates were open, but it’s hard to tell: Is it open to the public or not? And when you’re in the park, there’s nobody there, nothing to do.”
All of these things have been said about Fair Park countless times on an endless loop. Slack, the outsider who didn’t sit through all those council and community meetings in recent years, who never made or broke a promise to the neighborhood, who doesn’t suffer from the Fair Park fatigue that ails so many of us, is the man tasked with erasing those grievances. It’s his job now only to give us what we’ve been promised ad infinitum.
An open and accessible Fair Park. A green Fair Park. A full Fair Park year-round. And, a Fair Park that’s honest about its often ugly past — its Negro Achievement Days, its destruction and disrespect of surrounding neighborhoods — and sincere about delivering, at last, what it has promised for too long.
“A super-challenging project,” Slack called it Monday. “And a lot of opportunities to create a park that is welcoming to the entirety of Dallas.”
Those opportunities are outlines in a proposed master plan from Slack and Perkins & Will recently made public — a draft, anyway. And on paper, at least, it gives the people what they want.
12:50 PM on Dec 5, 2019