Parks Over Freeways

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 2012

As in lots of cities that get transected by highways, when eight subterranean lanes of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway were slashed through downtown Dallas, the surrounding neighborhoods were damaged. But few observers anticipated how strongly the area would re-blossom after three blocks of the freeway were roofed over with philanthropic support and turned into Klyde Warren Park. Named for the son of lead donor Kelcy Warren, the five-acre site was converted into a busy mix of lawn, dog park, playgrounds, food trucks, and performance areas. The free public park has a packed daily schedule of events, concerts, workouts, and meet-ups—all privately managed by the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, which raised $55 million of private donations to create the oasis. By becoming the favorite downtown location for residents, and physically reuniting two separated halves of Dallas’s arts district, the park has dramatically transformed local urban life.

Hoping for a similar effect in Philadelphia, the William Penn Foundation announced in 2017 that it would give up to $15 million to encourage a similar capping of several blocks of Interstate 95 where it currently cuts off the Philly downtown from the city’s Delaware River frontage. For a decade now, the foundation has sponsored citizen input, master planning, and a variety of improvement projects, including a new waterfront trail, to build understanding and support for reconnecting Philadelphia with its scenic river.