The Corporate Funder Behind That $30 Million Pledge for New Parks in Dallas

Note: Since the publication of this item, the Belo Foundation changed to Parks for Downtown Dallas.

It’s an exciting time for the park system, nature lovers, and businesses in Dallas, thanks to a multi-million dollar commitment from the Belo Foundation. Belo just announced that it will give $30 million toward four new downtown parks in the city, which were laid out in the 2013 downtown parks master plan. The funder is so committed to local parks that it even recently changed its name to Parks for Downtown Dallas.

Thus far, Klyde Warren Park, Belo Garden, and Main Street Garden have been successful in Dallas, and now 17 acres of downtown space will be used to create Harwood Park, Carpenter Park, Pacific Plaza, and West End Plaza. The commitment gave a huge boost to the project, which has been projected at $70 million and is one of those private-public partnerships we keep seeing for projects like these.

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This is a huge deal for the Dallas-based foundation, because $30 million is beyond any commitment it's made in the past. City officials estimate that the four new parks can be built with this new money and a matching grant from the city in seven to 10 years.

Right now, Dallas is trying to following the green space footsteps of Houston, Chicago, and Atlanta, where parks have done amazing things for cultural and civic life. Parks bring people together, drive up property values in growing areas, contribute to public health, and give desolate spaces an economy-boosting facelift. This $30 million is a dollar-for-dollar matching grant, and other support for these parks is expected from Parks for Downtown Dallas, the city of Dallas, and the Robert and Maureen Decherd Foundation.

“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “What we’re finding is that parks are the steroids of economic development. When you put them in there, great things start to happen.”

With this grant announcement, the foundation is making a significant grantmaking transition to a parks-specific focus overall. It concentrates most of its giving in Dallas because that’s where the Belo Corporation was founded. In addition to its support for urban park development, this has historically been a big funder of college-level journalism education in the past.

But before it makes the full shift, Belo is giving a $1.5 million grant to the University of Texas Moody College of Communication for the journalism school’s digital innovation program. It’s also signing off on a $500,000 grant to establish a new endowment to recruit diverse journalism students at Southern Methodist University. The A.H. Belo Corporation owns the Dallas Morning News, but is looking to create a new name for its philanthropy with a bigger focus on establishing green space in the urban core.

To learn more about this corporate giver, check out IP’s full profile of Parks For Downtown Dallas, formerly known as the Belo Foundation