A privately operated jail on the banks of the Trinity River in downtown Dallas has closed, providing an opportunity to improve the view of a $2 billion parkway development in the blighted area, officials said last week.
In a letter to Texas Department of Criminal Justice chief financial officer Jerry McGinty, Dallas interim city manager A.C. Gonzalez noted that the abandoned high-rise Dawson State Jail stood “in immediate proximity to the planned Downtown (Reunion) Overlook, the single most important link between (1) the Dallas Central Business District and Convention Center and (2) the Trinity.”
The vantage point from the river’s eastern levee would provide “unparalleled views of the two world class Santiago Calatrava bridges and the two lakes, which are the centerpiece of the entire Trinity Lakes design,” he wrote.
Dallas is financing the Calatrava bridges through bond funding to dress up the front yard of downtown’s high-rise skyline.
Gonzalez asked state officials to “consider the City’s desire to create strong urban design and appropriate land uses in this area.”
After legislative approval, The TDCJ announced in June that it would close the privately operated jail after years of complaints and investigations of inmate deaths.
Closing Dawson and another privately operated prison in Mineral Wells will save the state $97 million a year. Demand for inmate capacity has fallen sharply in recent years with declining crime rates and increasing diversion of drug abusers to treatment facilities.
The state’s contract with Nashville-based for-profit operator Corrections Corporation of America ended Aug. 31.
The city of Dallas and its partners are working to return the river to a more natural state with floodway improvements such as new pump stations, transportation connections, recreational amenities and promotion of outdoor activities.
With a combined investment of $2.5 billion from all interagency partners, public and private sources, the Trinity River Corridor Project is among the largest public works and urban development projects ever undertaken by the city of Dallas.
Some of the funding comes from $246 million of bonds approved by voters in 1998. Major aspects of the redevelopment have been delayed by concerns over the condition of the levees and plans to build a toll road skirting the levees.