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DALLAS-A little more than four years after the concept was formally introduced, developers are finally ready to launch construction on the $100-million Woodall Rodgers Park, a development geared to link Dallas’ uptown area to the CBD. Thanks to the inclusion of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, ground will officially break on the 5.2-acre parcel spanning the multi-lane Woodall Rodgers Freeway at Pearl St. on Sept. 14.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Tony Jones, chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Jones will discuss how Millennium Park changed Chicago’s landscape, much as those behind the Woodall Rodgers Park hope the project will do the same thing for Dallas.

Linda Owen, president and CEO of fund-raising arm Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation tells GlobeSt.com that the development will provide a connection between two areas of the city currently divided by the concrete moat that is Woodall Rodgers. She says now is a good time to work on the project; as the development nears its end, the economy should be improving, and could “hopefully jump-start development along the Woodall Rodgers corridor,” Owen comments.

She acknowledges that raising money over the years for the project had been a challenge. Though organizations such as The Real Estate Council kicked in seed money at the start to develop the plan, but the pre-development phase expenses had to be funded up front.

However a credit facility with JP Morgan Chase Bank and stimulus funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as the “bailout” meant the construction phase could start that much sooner. The first phase, Owen says, will involve building the basics for the infrastructure, a deck that can support future trees, lawns, sidewalks and other amenities. That phase has an estimated completion of 2011. Archer Western is the contractor on the project, under the auspices of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Following the infrastructure’s completion, Owen continues, would be the park improvements and amenities including dog and children’s parks and cafes. The goal is to complete the amenities by 2012, but a great deal depends on how much money is raised. “We’ve raised close to $80 million without anyone seeing the dirt flying,” Owen comments. “We’re optimistic that as people see construction underway, they’ll be excited about helping us realize the full potential of the park.”

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