Southwestern Medical District Urban Streetscape and Park Project
Imagine a Medical District where brilliant minds and hopeful patients from around the world can thrive in an innovative, healthy and safe environment.
Texas Trees Foundation, with support from the Southwestern Medical District, the City of Dallas, NCTCOG and numerous stakeholders are changing the way we think about public/private partnerships and public rights-of-ways. Together we are seeking to bring to life the Southwestern Medical District Urban Streetscape Plan to change the tone of the District so that people are better connected to the great institutions, the natural environment, and especially to each other. The transformation of the rights-of-ways within the Southwestern Medical District is being reimagined to better support health, safety, connectivity, transportation, economic development, and beautification. The impact of the streetscape will be the restoration of the natural environment and improved human well-being that serves as a model for other cities to emulate.
Outside the walls of the medical institutions, the District is not a place that promotes healing and harmony. The District is beset with aging infrastructure, lack of connectivity and safety within public spaces, and the environment is unhealthy for users of the District, which include 2.9 million patients and visitors; 3,600 medical and nursing students; 45,000 employees; world-renowned doctors, and 23,000 neighbors living in and adjacent to the District. We have embarked on a project to demonstrate and rethink how we design for people. We want to find ways to create a better-connected urban space and foster collaboration and cooperation amongst the District’s many stakeholders, and we see an opportunity to make the District truly connected and cohesive beyond the footprint of the buildings.
Health & Environment
The genesis of the project was rooted in improving human health and the pandemic magnified the importance of nature for our health and wellbeing.
At Texas Trees Foundation, we are committed to connecting people with trees and the ecosystems they provide in their everyday life to create a healthier, equitable, and stronger community. The Foundation’s 2015 State of the Dallas Urban Forest Report found that the District had less than 7% tree canopy and is the largest urban heat island in the City. Studies show that immersion in nature has a profound impact on human health, such as boosting overall health, reducing stress, promoting active lifestyles, reducing the urban heat island effect, improving mental health and cognitive function, improving safety, and creating a stronger community (see the USDA’s research summary, “Urban Nature for Human Health and Wellbeing”). The goals since the beginning of the project were to leverage the restorative and health benefits of the environment to improve human wellness and create a sense of place in the District. We believe that this project is more important than ever because it brings people closer to nature and the restorative benefits that it provides during and after this trying time. It also will help ensure that the cutting-edge work being conducted within the District’s institutions, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 response, is amplified by creating a truly healthy environment.
PEDESTRIAN ACCESSIBILITY & SAFETY
- Sidewalk gaps, narrow broken sidewalks, and areas with no sidewalks in the SWMD make navigation for pedestrians challenging and nearly impossible
- The Harry Hines Boulevard bridge crossing over Inwood Road has no sidewalk making pedestrian crossing in the heart of the District impossible
- Existing sidewalks are mostly narrow and are located immediately back-of-curb with no buffer between busy high-speed streets
- Intersections are excessively wide making crossing extremely dangerous
NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER
- Lack of nature in our urban environments is a contributing factor to mental health and depression
- SWMD is in need of more greenspace and naturalistic settings
- Street infrastructure and public rights-of-way in the SWMD were originally designed over 50 years ago for industrial use and do not meet today’s transportation or environmental priorities
- SWMD is plagued with excessive stormwater runoff and flooding during periods of extreme rainfall
URBAN HEAT ISLAND EFFECT
- Dallas ranks second to Phoenix as U.S. city heating up the fastest and the SWMD is the hottest urban heat island in Dallas making detrimental effects to the health and wellbeing of SWMD and its users
- DFW ranks 13th for high ozone days out of 228 metropolitan areas
- SWMD has only a 7% tree canopy cover compared to the minimum 30% needed to effectively reduce ambient air temperature
Solution-Oriented Design Goals Identified
- Increase human comfort through enhanced landscaping and amenities and pedestrian/bicycle-friendly circulation
- Improve user health by reconnecting with nature through greenspaces and trails connectivity
- Define District as a destination by providing amenities and nodes
- Express SWMD history through interactive amenities and public art
- Implement a biophilic strategy to connect people to nature and bring new possibilities of wellness, stewardship, and learning
- Economic development opportunities for private and public sectors
- Improve pedestrian safety with improved sidewalks, buffers, crossings, and lighting
- Utilize smart technologies to enhance user experience and reduce carbon footprint
- Improve access & connectivity with multi-use paths and designated bus lanes
- Maximize overall energy usage on streets with energy-saving lights and amenities
- Mitigate heat island effect through energy-saving materials, green infrastructure, and increased tree canopy
- Improve air quality/reduce carbon footprint through increased tree canopy