Downtown Dallas’ four new parks are part of a single master plan. But each park is its own entity as well. The designs for Carpenter Park, Harwood Park, Pacific Plaza and West End Plaza are all unique. Parks for Downtown Dallas, city officials and concerned citizens are taking every measure to ensure each park’s landscaping, amenities and services will be truly neighborly.

Of all these parks, West End Plaza presents park planners with some of the more distinct challenges — and opportunities.

At three-quarters of an acre, the park grounds will be compact. Moreover, the Plaza will be situated in the heart of one of downtown Dallas’ most historic districts. But there’s more to the West End than John Neely Bryan’s trading post, railroads, beautiful old brick warehouses and the National Register of Historic Places designation. The West End is a place where Dallas’ storied past and bright future intersect.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (The DEC), the West End has become one of Dallas’ hubs for innovation. Operating at the corner of Market Street and Ross Avenue since 2013, The DEC has provided co-working resources and served as an incubator for a host of area startups. Trey Bowles, CEO of The Dec and co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, says his organizations “have brought nearly 50,000 people into the area in the past two years to help build awareness, activity and to rebuild this area of town, not as an entertainment district but as an innovation district that can showcase to the rest of the world the creativity, savvy and entrepreneurial spirit that defines Dallas.”

But what does innovation mean for West End Plaza?

In addition to the green spaces, cafe, water features and bandstand that have been discussed for the park, innovation at West End Plaza will focus on how Dallas might become a Smart City. Researchers at MIT have observed “in the future, cities will account for nearly 90 percent of global population growth, 80 percent of wealth creation and 60 percent of total energy consumption. Developing better strategies for the creation of new cities is, therefore, a global imperative.”

In the words of the international Smart Cities Council, the best urban planning strategies are those in which “digital technology and intelligent design have been harnessed to create smart, sustainable cities with high-quality living and high-quality jobs.”

Asked what specific innovations might make West End Plaza a Smart Park, Trey tells us we can look forward to “smart lighting, microgrids, smart parking, smart EV stations, hydroponic offerings, interactive kiosks, smart art and museum exhibits, including installations highlighting the innovation that is happening all across North Texas, public Wi-Fi” and other examples of smart infrastructure. But Trey explains that a Smart City is more than just a city that runs on big data. A Smart City requires “a mixture of corporate innovation, social innovation and political innovation. The important thing to note is the innovation here is not isolated to technology. The West End Plaza is a vital component of Dallas’ Innovation District and proves that innovation includes environmentally friendly locations as well as public spaces where people can congregate, visit and experience all our city has to offer.”

What does your vision of Dallas’ future look like? What innovations would you like to see integrated into the designs for West End Plaza? Plans are moving forward, and there’s no better time than now to participate in Parks for Downtown Dallas’ initiative. Joining us is as easy as connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter, and signing up for our email newsletter.