White Rock Lake development, Central-Park style

Sandwich kiosk at Central Park entrance

So there was a lot of discussion here last week about the wisdom of adding commercial development in and around White Rock Lake, and some of the comments had to do with whether restaurants and shops built at the lake could, or should, be reminiscent of development in New York City’s Central Park.

Both are urban parks, both are gathering places for an entire city, and both are largely non-commercial. Still, if you compare Central Park — with its various restaurants and shops, both on the fringe of the park and inside — with the current lack of anything commercial at White Rock Lake, Central Park looks like a veritable NorthPark in comparison.

Maybe this is a good thing, maybe it’s not: Clearly from following the blog discussion, our thoughts are split on the idea. So I thought it would be useful to look at some pictures of Central Park development and try to imagine how these projects might look here at White Rock Lake. I called former DMNer Steve Kenny, my one-time Northwestern University roommate who now works for the New York Times, and asked him to send me some photos with his new iPhone from Central Park.

Today was both an off-day for Kenny and, judging from the photos, a beautiful day in New York, so my inbox was filled with photos.

Take a look at these Central Park shops, then close your eyes and imagine something like them at White Rock Lake. Then open your eyes and start typing your thoughts here.

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  • Trulyunruhly

    If the burgers cost $25 like they do in NY, will they come?  Scratch that thought.  Let’s keep in mind that the overall usable pedestrian (or business) space is drastically reduced in comparison to an entire massive park like Central Park, with ample seating and accessibility;  No, I don’t think this is s good idea.  Several years ago we successfully redirected traffic using one-way streets, and now we are considering increasing the already heavy flow of traffic?  Maybe a snowcone stand or series of small handcart vendors make the best sense for the scale and needs of a place like White Rock. 

  • KKB

    I think limited businesses should be allowed around the outskirts of the part, but only if they pay fees that go to care and clean up of the lake, wildlife preservation and take an active interest in being an active citizen in the community by giving back. It’s such a shame to see so many individuals who go picnic and leave their trash and people fishing who negligently leave fishing line and lead sinkers which harm wildlife and it would be nice to put an end to it. Of course we have many responsible people too, but somehow I always see the litterbugs. If a few small scale businesses could supplement the quality of the lake through generating revenue specifically to HELP care for it, I’d be game.

  • intheknow

    Considering Lincoln’s purchase of the property across the street, it seems to be the obvious reason for all the secrecy of the buyer.  If you think that traffic is bad at this intersection, just wait until all the “trendy” shops and/or residents try to make their way to their new homes- seems to be everyone complains about the traffic when the club is open, but get ready for the traffic when this development happens.  And the Arboretum’s free use of the parking lot for “shuttle parking” that the Advocate references will unlikely be available anymore: https://lakewood.advocatemag.com/2012/04/05/city-wants-1900-new-parking-spaces-for-arboretum/  unless, of course, if the buyer will allow free use of parking during their peak times.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • Susan

    I’m with Denise, it’s so nice to have a wide open space of nature right in the heart of Dallas.  Let’s keep it non-commercial. 

  • Tbarker

    You will find that development of the YMCA area will satisfy height and density of commercial entities.  If Lincoln or another similar developer gets that area and the lot across the street, many changes will ensue.

    We do not need more commercial enterprise in the boundaries of the lake. The commercial run companies alreay are a royal pain.

  • Crabbtvl

    I think that makes since Norman, but a height limit like Paris, Maybe 4-5 stories, and I Think we should have 4 or 5 eating places all in one place where there would only be traffic and parking in one place, like the Arboretum.

  • Anonymous


  • Norman Alston

     We’re strangling the goose that lays the golden eggs by constantly trying to get more people and activities into it. On the other hand, I have always found it peculiar the way Garland Road development almost seems to ignore the fabulous park immediately adjacent to it. Finally, we should encourage connections with WRL in ways that don’t actually mean you have to go into the park to enjoy it. In other words, let’s learn to like the idea of taller development, not IN the park, but on current private land around the park.

  • stuart

     The Advocate did a series where urban planners redesigned a neighborhood intersection. Wasn’t there one of Casa Linda with a traffic circle?

    The DMN article linked above is talking about the Garland Road Vision which proposed redeveloping the spillway area as shown in the attached image.

  • NetContributor

    There’s a spiffy consultant presentation available at this website – the presentation I looked at includes some water color renderings.  I found it through the miracle of Google.    http://garlandroadvision.org/news_events.php

  • Anonymous

    A water color rendering? Yellow 3-4 story buildings? A fountian in the circle? I remember that too, I think I saw it here, but I can’t find it…

  • Soniaplatz

    Yea, but i also saw an actual plan, it was a scketch of sorts for developmrntal purposes i thought, this was a couple years ago. I thought when they did all that work along the spillway, they were gonna begin that project but.nothing transpired. I cannot recall my source for the scketch.

  • The possibility of commercial development at White Rock Lake makes me want to cry. Leave a beautiful, mostly natural and well-maintained space alone please. Who’s proposing this? Who stands to personally benefit? Let’s follow the money trail…

  • NetContributor

    I think Soniaplatz may be referring to this DMN article.  It begins by asking readers to picture this: “New development south of the White Rock Lake spillway offers
    apartments, shops and restaurants overlooking the creek. People
    walk there from the lake or bike along the nearby Santa Fe
    Trail.”  http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/dallas/headlines/20100411-A-vision-takes-shape-for-Garland-7432.ece

  • Rick Wamre

    Soniaplatz, that’s a lot more than we’ve heard in terms of detail. Sounds nice, though. I wonder about the traffic circle idea right there — that’s a lot of traffic to be wheeling around a circle.

  • stuart

     You are mistaken about the history of Central Park. Of course you are still entitled to you opinion about the future of White Rock.

  • stuart

     I don’t know numbers either but I’ve been there several times.  I’ve seen it empty and half full but never packed.

  • Soniaplatz

    I thought that whole area around that intersection of garland gaston was going to be developed into a circle with a fountain and residential mixed with shops and restauants like at uptown village was supposed to happen there? Any confirmation on that?

  • Rick Wamre

    Gammababa, for what it is worth, Central Park is 843 acres (136 acres woodland, 250 acres lawn and 150 acres of water), while White Rock Lake is 1,015 acres (I don’t have the water-to-land breakdown).

  • Gammababa

    Central Park in New York is much much larger than White Rock Lake. I think it would cause more congestion than what we have presently.  If the lake were bigger, had more trees etc. then I could see it happening … however, I still think  it would squeeze out the natural element of the Lake to do so. 

  • Rick Wamre

    NetContributor, I don’t know the answer to the question about how Bicycle Cafe is doing, but I can just about guarantee you that whatever happens at Far West/YMCA’s current property, it WILL NOT wind up being a parking lot. The significant amount of money that is being spent to acquire the property (assuming the deals occur) means we’re going to see some pretty substantial and probably mixed-use development there. My guess is that we’ll hear more about the plans within 90 days.

  • Rick Wamre

    Tejasmom, we’ve heard that same rumor but haven’t been able to obtain confirmation. Yet.

  • Anonymous

    Is it possible for Dallas to leave some open space without trying to put a development on it?? The buildings around Central Park were already there before the park was built.  I want to see green grass, earth and wildlife.  I do not want to see more people, cars and a structure trying to sell something to me.  What’s wrong with leaving something as it is?

  • NetContributor

    I’d love to see something other than a parking lot at the Far West/YMCA space after the Y moves.  Does anyone know how the new Bicycle Cafe is doing, financially?  That sort of business might offer some insight into what works near the lake.  So many restaurants fail … and you never know what’s going to come in behind them and take over the space.

  • Donna

    Dallas is ready!  How nice would it be to have a venue overlooking the water, after all we do have a lake here.

  • Tejasmom

    I heard from a local merchant that Lincoln Properties wants to buy the YMCA/Far West property and put in a mixed used development – stores, restaurants and apts. This fits with the contingency sale of the YMCA mentioned in previoius articles.

  • GreeninDallas

    As someone who bikes the lake I can only imagine how this may increase the congestion that we already experience. While I’d love to have access to more things at the lake, I’m afraid that car centric Dallas would ruin it. Until people really want to get on foot or bike, this town will remain an angry mess. 

  • Tbarker

    Well, since the City wants 1900 new parking spaces at White Rock Lake at the area of the Arboretum, lots of room, but no green park.  See the DMN Blog by Wilonsky this morning for details, something I have been aware of for over a year.

  • Rick Wamre

    Rodshar1998, we have heard some rumors about the developers’ plans for that intersection, but nothing has been confirmed yet. It does sound like some type of residential/retail plans are in the works, and we’ll be letting you know as soon as we are able to determine exactly what is planned.

  • Rodshar1998

    What IS going on at Grand and Gaston?  Does anyone know?  I know that the building that the Y and Far West are in have an offer.  BUT, they seem to be keeping it a big secret.  Also, there was a notice for a code change on the SW corner next to the nearly deserted shopping strip.  That is all such wasted space, at least for now.

  • jd

    There used to be paddle-boat rentals at TP hill; we aren’t talking about something new!

    White Rock Paddle Co. is a good model – they fit with the current “active-centric” use of the lake, I don’t think anyone would argue they haven’t been a great addition. I think there is more room for stuff like that.

    I don’t think a nice food kiosk or two would be out of place, but I don’t think they would be very profitable because use of the lake is pretty well spread out all over.

  • Montemalone

    That will never work in Dallas – no drive thru and no parking lots.
    You don’t expect people to walk, do you?
    I miss living in Chicago.

  • Eastdalgal

    I didn’t mean to get off topic with that comment about the intersection. WRL is so differently situated than CP, obviously. The brick structures are mostly nice in the pics, I think the kiosk works too. Again, quantity and style would have to be closely controlled.

  • Eastdalgal

    Most of that is lovely, but not the area with the newstand / vendor tables. I don’t even think that would work at White Rock for vendors at this point – everyone is walking around in Manhattan, not just those who are in the park for exercise. Almost no one is just walking to lunch or work past White Rock Lake. Whatever is in the works at Gaston and East Grand likely will have a big impact on the lake – hopefully it will be for the good. I would love to see that intersection be the “gateway to the lake” that it could be.