Arboretum tunnel

It’s going to be a lovely fall day, which may mean that the Dallas Arboretum sets another attendance record with its annual Autumn at the Arboretum festival — an even more popular event than spring’s Dallas Blooms. Already this season, more than 12,000 people have attended on a single Saturday. To accommodate the weekend crowds, the Arboretum has been opening the lower floors of its not-quite-finished parking garage across the street. Visitors who park there cross beneath Garland Road via the newly constructed underground walkway and resurface at the children’s garden.

Arboretum board chairman Brian Shivers, who frequents the gardens, was there on a recent Saturday and shared with us the above photo he took of people taking photos as they walked through. Shivers announced at this week’s preview of the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit that the garage will fully open in “just a few days.” It adds 1,150 parking spaces, giving the Arboretum a total of roughly 2,000.

“For the next several years, we’re probably in pretty good shape,” Shivers says of the total parking.

In the past, the Arboretum used a lot at Garland Road and Gaston for overflow parking, but when Lincoln Property Co. purchased the old strip center to develop Arboretum Village (no connection, other than its proximity to the Arboretum), the Arboretum needed a new parking solution. Its answer was the garage, which received mixed reviews from neighbors when it was introduced in summer 2013.

Shivers says that when not full of Arboretum visitors, the garage also can be used by people visiting White Rock Lake Park for races, cycling events or “just a pretty day.” Instead of heading into the gardens, they would hang a right on Garland Road then take a left on Emerald Isle. They would have to pay a parking fee, just like Arboretum visitors do; Shivers notes that the Arboretum still has to recoup what it paid for the parking garage.

Normally, a garage is the kind of project funded by city bond funds because the Arboretum is a Dallas park, he says, but “our need for the garage sped up when we lost the Gaston-Garland-East Grand lot.” So Amegy Bank, also the presenting sponsor of the 12 Days exhibit, loaned the private funds for the garage.

It should be open just in time for 12 Days, which the Arboretum expects will bump up attendance like the 2012 Chihuly exhibit did. The Nov. 16–Jan. 4 holiday display features 25-foot-tall gazebos scattered across the Arboretum grounds, each with life-size replicas of mechanical lords-a-leaping or maids-a-milking. (The latter also has four life-size cows with swishing tails, Shivers pointed out during the preview.) Each gazebo scene was designed and constructed by the same team that creates sets and costumers for The Dallas Opera productions.

Chihuly’s outdoor lighting infrastructure laid the groundwork for 12 Days and, like Chihuly, the Arboretum will open for select nights during the holidays so that visitors can view the exhibit lit up. More than 20,000 tickets for 12 Days at Night already have been sold.

“This will be just as spectacular” as Chihuly Nights, Shivers says. “This is really over the top.”

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