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Uptown Dallas, Inc., a non-profit entity charged with enhancing life for Uptown residents, promoting Uptown businesses and managing the Uptown Public Improvement District (UPID), broke ground today on eight-acre Griggs Park. Today’s groundbreaking also signified the start of the Griggs Park Capital Campaign project, a commitment to refurbish and enhance the park with new features.

Griggs Park’s new landscape design and refurbishment, led by Uptown Dallas, includes children’s facilities, kiosks, benches, picnic tables, groves of new trees, broad pedestrian pathways and fountains.

Another important element of the park is recognition of the land’s history with commemorative markers that will serve as permanent acknowledgment of the achievements and good works of Reverend Allen R. Griggs, a former slave and the 1870s pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church.

Griggs Park is located at the eastern edge of the historic areas of State-Thomas, Freedman’s Town and old North Dallas, and it serves as an oasis for the highest density residential neighborhood in Dallas. Located near the intersection of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Central Expressway, Griggs Park is larger than any other of Dallas’ downtown parks including the new Klyde Warren Park. To integrate green and sustainable features, all plantings will be native, low-maintenance and drought tolerant. Additionally, the proposed trash cans are solar powered compactors.

“The Uptown area has grown rapidly and has continued to flourish within the past decade with numerous new developments, retail and other neighborhood improvements such as the new medians now under construction on Cedar Springs Road. The growth of the neighborhood spurred us to significantly enhance Griggs Park,” said Joseph Pitchford, chairman of the board of Uptown Dallas. “We have been planning and discussing the park’s rebirth for years and it is exciting to watch these improvements start to take shape with today’s groundbreaking, establishing a footprint memorial to Griggs Park’s past.”

“Refurbishing Griggs Park is an excellent example of a public/private partnership and we are working with the community to raise money and make this project a reality,” said Jack Irwin former Uptown Dallas board member and one of the key leaders championing this revival. “There is a great deal of history behind this park, and this renovation will bring much-deserved recognition to Rev. Griggs, transforming the space into a lush oasis for the growing neighborhood and the city of Dallas to use and enjoy.”

Speaking on the historical significance of Griggs Park, notable African-American historian and retired physician Dr. Robert Prince stated, “I am elated to be here today on land that I frequently traversed. As I contemplate these few acres of land before me, an aura of nostalgia envelops my being. And with remarkable clarity I can visualize this park as it appeared in the 1930s. [Now] I look to the west and I see the gleaming glass and steel structures that reach to the sky. I see bridges that are futuristic, spanning our Trinity River. Vision, finance, exact architecture of excellence and tolerance has transformed a one-horse town into a world-class metropolis.

In 1915, the City of Dallas bought land near Hall Street for one of its first parks for black residents, which today is known as Griggs Park. In 1924 at the request of the City Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, the Dallas Park Board dedicated the park that bears the name Griggs Park in honor of Rev. Griggs’ life work. Rev. Griggs paved the way for many “firsts” for the African-American community including starting a grammar school for ex-slaves, and by 1878 he had built the first high school for African Americans.

Rev. Griggs organized four black colleges, two seminaries, one academy and more than 500 hundred edifices of education and religion like Bryan Orphan Home. He even created and published the first African-American newspaper in Texas in 1878, and was editor of five others.

The Griggs Park improvement project is funded through a public, private partnership. To date, $1.5 million has been allocated to the project including $317,000 in bond funds from the city of Dallas and the remainder from Uptown Dallas. The city will provide basic upkeep including mowing and litter pickup; Uptown Dallas will be responsible for planting, watering, electricity and all other park maintenance to any enhancement added.

The Griggs Park Capital Campaign project is currently underway and aims to raise an additional $2.5 million to make these improvements and to provide funds for overall maintenance. Numerous sponsorship levels are available. By contributing to Griggs Park, donors join a committed group of others who share the vision of an amenity-rich, thriving and diverse Uptown community. For those interested in donating, contact Uptown Dallas Executive Director, Amy Gibson at 214-871-2825.

Landscape architecture firm SWA Group designed the park and ValleyCrest Landscape Companies is completing the landscaping build out. The Griggs Park improvements are expected to complete in Fall 2013.