Tuesday, May 25, 2010

GRIGGS PARK: WHAT NOT TO DO

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I've known about this for a long time and figured it was one of those things that would be shelved for so long that status quo would carry the day. but now it is in the news so I might as well comment on it. Griggs Park in uptown Dallas is supposed to get a makeover.

Having formerly lived in the neighborhood and been a frequent user of that park then and now, I'm pretty well versed in its current usage AND the history of it and its neighborhood. We'll get to those answers in a second.

First, let's discuss the theory behind redressing Griggs Park. That would be that each neighborhood should have their own park suited to their own particular needs. With that said, rules were made to be broken. Or at the very least tested.

The thing with planning theory (or any really) is that they are wielded like weapons. Each on their own deadly enough to win an argument vs. no competing solutions. Unfortunately, planning is about weighing all of the above (and below) and determining the best of many, many paths to pursue.

In the spirit of all things in moderation even moderation, I see three main reasons for testing that theory here. Tests I don't believe changing Griggs Park (at least for now) passes.

I. While one theory might suggest one possible solution, there is also a competing theory. One that is less established, less encoded in the minds of planners everywhere. That theory would be a more contextually-appropriate approach.

Griggs Park is next to a highway. It is not really embedded neighborhood park where there are many more lots or units facing on the park, where the park improves the value of those units and those units demand a better view. Everyone moved into block 588 because it is a cool building with a view of downtown and fields for play or dogs a step away.

The access because it is highway adjacent suggests that this is more of a city park as in city-wide park. We should save the fountains and flowers for neighborhood scaled parks in uptown. Of course, one just infilled with more townhomes (I know. I rarely complain about more in-town housing). /slaps wrist.

II. On the other hand, if we were to run with the theory of neighborhood determination and that the park should reflect the needs of the neighborhood. It might make some initial sense to turn Griggs into a dog-walking park for the yuppies. However, with State Thomas very real and contentious history of displacing an established, deeply rooted African American neighborhood, this could come off as more of the same. This time removes hispanic baseball players. Do we think this is the politically best move?
"You'll still be able to play ball out there; you'll still be able to play rugby and soccer out there," said improvement district CEO Jim Reagan. "You just won't have a lighted ball field."
Ouch. Baseball out. Yes, Drexyl Spivey. It looks like in fact it IS whiteboy day. And this brings up two other issues:
a. The predominantly white, weekday visitors use the fields as well for soccer and kickball and a variety of other free-form ways. Many of whom arrive from all over the metroplex to participate in the various leagues.
b. Also, given that the demographic has changed so severely (by hook or crook - not the point of this post), does it makes sense to continually, superficially apply a use based on current neighborhood demographics and our perception of what their needs are? The current residents use it in so many ways indicates that the users are adapting it to their needs themselves.
If we try to change it every fifteen or so years the demographic will continue to change. We're throwing darts with a pirate patch over one eye at a moving target. It is not out of the realm of possibility that in 2025 other areas with a bit more authenticity emerge as new hotspot urban neighborhoods. I'm thinking particularly of the latent potential of close-in (to downtown) neighborhoods such as Ross Ave, Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts and the Trinity Riverfront. And while the urbanism is mostly good in State Thomas, the architecture isn't the sturdiest.

III. Is it more or less maintenance to plant and mow grass or the design, construct, and maintain the future plan? Which brings up the last point:
"There's a higher demand for the fields than the actual supply," Violi said. "People in the City of Dallas don't want to drive out to Carrollton to play."
Of a similar economic mindset, the city is broke. Couldn't some of the money for the design and construction be appropriated to improved maintenance of Griggs and/or other parks for the time being until the supply and demand of parks works itself out?

(And I'm aware that this is probably set aside PID or TIF money.)

The point of all of the above is that there are better places to assert that money and get better, more timely, and useful expenditure from it.