A shiny new park is opening soon in downtown Dallas. Called Pacific Plaza, it's the first of four new downtown parks to open via a $15 million gift from Parks for Downtown Dallas and from the 2017 Dallas Bond Program.
The other three parks are West End Square, Harwood Park, and Carpenter Park.
Pacific Plaza is a 3.75-acre urban space at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Harwood Street, in the same block as the DART St. Paul Station, with meandering walking paths, restrooms, pet areas, and an all-ages playground. It replaces a parking lot and a former pocket park.
The lead designer was SWA Group, which also designed the Katy Trail and portions of the Dallas Arboretum.
SWA Dallas managing principal Chuck McDaniel says that the park's signature element is "The Thread," a 611-foot-long Indiana limestone seat wall that traverses the entire plaza.
"This sinuous, sculptural form unifies the elements of the park into a cohesive whole," McDaniel says.
One of the most unique elements in the park is an oval-shaped pavilion. This large, looped structure reaches out toward the corner of St. Paul and Pacific Avenue and wraps around the event and lawn space.
Designed by HKS Architects, it's like a curving ring, made of steel panels with small round holes that filter sunlight across the walk below.
The perforations are actually Morse Code. It's a nod to the Texas and Pacific Railway, which ran from El Paso to New Orleans; conductors communicated by telegraph using American Morse Code to map out tracks, train stops, and elevation.
The T&P Railway's schedules and other data were translated into Morse Code and notched into the Pacific Plaza pavilion, says Sarah Hughes, spokesperson for Parks For Downtown Dallas.
The pocket park on the eastern corner was originally established as the James W. Aston Park in June 1983.
"The space now lives on as Aston Grove, where 30 mature live oak trees were preserved," Hughes says. "We planted over 144 new trees across the park."
These plantings grow the tree canopy in an otherwise barren part of downtown.
The playground has a minimalist tone. There are see-saws, something called leaping mounds, and a newfangled swingset made of thin red crisscrossing tubes. It sits on a circular pad with bright yellow and orange lines stripping in every direction.
A tree-lined promenade will run along Harwood Street, the longest edge of the park; native flora and fauna were planted throughout.
Pacific Plaza opens on October 14 with a dedication ceremony and food from Easy Slider and Ruthie's Food Truck. Other opening events continue throughout the week.
"The economic value of parks is well documented, but the social resiliency developed through people being together at places like Pacific Plaza has a profound impact on our community," McDaniel says.