The City of Dallas will seek bids for the construction of a hike-and-bike trail along the old Trinity River channel — a project that local businesses say will enliven the industrial area with restaurants, residences and foot traffic.
The city hopes to begin soliciting bids for a two-mile concrete section of the Trinity Strand Trail later this summer, saidMichael Hellmann, park planning manager for Dallas Park and Recreation Department.
The construction project is budgeted at about $5.5 million, said Shelly White, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of The Trinity Strand Trail, a group formed in 2002 to raise money for the trail and support its development. The first phase runs near the Design District along the natural course of the Trinity River, which was diverted behind the levees after a major flood in 1908.
Dallas voters approved bond issues in 2003 and 2006 that provided $3.5 million for the Trinity Strand project. The North Central Texas Council of Governments awarded $4.5 million to the project in 2008.
Those funds helped pay for about $1 million in design work for the first section, including contracts handled by Kansas City-based HNTB and Arlington-based Schrickel, Rollins and Associates Inc.
Last year, the city completed construction of the Turtle Creek Plaza, a trail head along Turtle Creek Boulevard, for about $380,000. The subcontractor on the plaza project was Lewisville-based Ratliff Companies.
Hellmann said city staff members are finalizing the city’s acquisition of about 10 small land donations or easements given by landowners to make way for the trail path along the old channel. Construction of the two-mile section, which sits between Stemmons Freeway and the Trinity levees, should take about a year, he said.
“I think that particularly for the buildings that abutt the new project, it’s going to totally change the uses of those buildings,” said Jim Lake Jr., president and CEO of Jim Lake Cos., a commercial real estate company headquartered in the Design District that owns about 850,000 square feet in the area.
The city altered the area’s zoning in 2003 to allow for residential and retail use of the area, though it still also houses some industrial and warehouse activity. West of the Design District, the grassy channel cuts through an area populated by brick warehouses and sales outlets, with some vacant buildings and open lots.
Down the trail
Jim Lake Cos. doesn’t yet have specific plans for new uses of its several buildings along the channel, Lake said, but the company has been conceptualizing possible ideas while waiting for the trail to come.
Lake cited the popularity of the Katy Trail and establishments such as the Katy Trail Ice House, a restaurant with a beer garden that opens to the Katy Trail.
“People don’t just drive there — they walk there and they bike there,” Lake said. “Once all the connections are made, you’re going to see those kind of uses coming down into the area.”
Buddy Cramer, co-owner of the Katy Trail Ice House, said the establishment at 3136B Routh Street hosts at least 2,500 people on a busy Saturday. He attributed the success largely to the atmosphere created by the Katy Trail.
“On the weekends, we have huge traffic coming off the trail,” he said. “It’s kind of a different deal for the people of Dallas and I think that we have kind of found something here that really works that nobody has really tried before.”
The Friends of the Trinity Strand Trail’s master plan calls for the trail to extend 7.8 miles, including about 2 miles of soft-surface trail. It will run along the old river channel, through the Medical District, and past the Dallas Market Center, Infomart and the Design District. The plan also includes connections with the Katy Trail and the city’s Trinity River Corridor system.
“It is a huge untapped resource right now,” White said. “We’ve got people all along the trail but there’s no reason for them to walk along this channel.”