Design for Integration: Turning a Parking Garage Into an Economic Catalyst in Downtown Dallas

Design for Integration: Turning a Parking Garage Into an Economic Catalyst in Downtown Dallas

When designers tackle a project, they face a myriad complications: a client’s demands, the constraints of the site, budget limitations. Designers can meet those challenges and simply give their clients what they want.

But forward-thinking designers press for opportunities to build places that work better than expected and that delight users and neighbors.

That spirit is reflected in the first measure in the AIA’s Framework of Design Excellence, a set of 10 principles to inspire design that is sustainable, resilient and inclusive. The first measure, Design for Integration, advises designers to define the big idea behind a project and how the design translates into social, economic and environmental value for the client and the neighborhood.

This multi-layered approach to design guided HKS’ work at 2000 Ross, a 2,000-stall parking structure with 26,000 square feet of street-level retail on the edge of Dallas’ prominent Arts District. J.P. Morgan Asset Management and developer Stream Realty Partners wanted to replace a surface parking lot with a parking garage that would meet the needs of the tenants at Trammell Crow Center, a 50-story polished granite skyscraper built in 1984 and a prime office address in Dallas. There was a sense of urgency in getting the project done because J.P. Morgan risked losing tenants over insufficient parking and a shortage of food and retail offerings neighboring the office building.

But this was no ordinary lot, given its location on the periphery of the Dallas Arts District, a world-class cultural hub that is home to iconic architecture by multiple Pritzker Prize winners, including I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano and Norman Foster. The lot was a short walk from the city’s popular Klyde Warren Park, and people parking in that spot could look straight into the south lawn of the Dallas Museum of Art.

“We wanted the city to be just as proud of that project as people are of other projects in that district, and we couldn’t live with ourselves by just building a parking garage,” said Eddie Abeyta, HKS chief design officer and principal. “We spoke to the big idea about understanding the context of this project, understanding what the Arts District meant to the site and thinking about what the client could potentially build down the road to maximize the value of that property.”

The HKS design team persuaded J.P. Morgan to upgrade the project with a graceful curtain wall façade, backlit at night, that masks the nature of the parking garage along Ross Avenue and Harwood Street, blending into the bright and inventive Arts District landscape. Designers lined the ground floor along those streets with restaurants and retail and created a streetscape that would bring the block to life. HKS also planned the parking structure to accommodate the future addition of a hotel or residential building to its footprint.

Given civic leaders’ proposed plans to one day expand the Arts District boundaries, HKS designers helped the client recognize that 2000 Ross shouldn’t be a mere parking garage but a podium for future development that would help reinvigorate the Ross Avenue corridor. The translucent skin of the garage façade, inspired by the progressive architecture of the Dallas Arts District, brightens this city corner with a modern architectural expression that sets it apart from the dark and staid 1980s office towers in the Central Business District. The opaline glass panels are printed with a gradient of horizontal lines — a pattern that, along with the panels’ sloped fit within the curtain wall frame, gives the façade a rhythmic quality. The two glass faces change their look with the sun’s position throughout the day, stamped with mirror images of downtown skyscrapers or brushed with mottled light.

The HKS team used LED lighting throughout the building, providing more energy efficiency than the standard parking garage. The retail spaces and other air-conditioned areas in the garage rely on a water-cooled condenser system that consumes less energy than the typical split-system air conditioner.

HKS also succeeded in creating construction efficiencies by designing the garage as a foundation for a future hotel or residential building. The design team’s expertise in hospitality, residential and office structural systems allowed the team to plan a garage that could merge with vertical construction for any of those uses. Designers also thought carefully about the placement of vertical circulation elements such as staircases and elevators to ensure seamless integration with proposed uses above the garage.

“The beauty about our firm is that we understand the design, aesthetic nature of what we’re trying to do but also the performative nature of how it has to come together,” Abeyta said.

Though the garage predates the coronavirus pandemic, the structure can adapt to a downtown landscape transformed by new circumstances, Abeyta said. For instance, should office tenants’ demand for parking decrease permanently, the existing garage can also supply parking for a future residential building or hotel without the need to expand the garage horizontally. The tract preserved next to the garage for potential parking expansion can be developed into apartments or other occupied uses. The garage itself could be adapted for other uses decades from now. Its flat perimeter floor plates could support future residential quarters, offices or live-work spaces.

“The beauty about our firm is that we understand the design, aesthetic nature of what we’re trying to do but also the performative nature of how it has to come together,” Abeyta said.

2000 Ross was designed not only to provide parking for commuters but to charm downtown pedestrians. Unlike the frosted glass in the upper floors, the restaurants on the ground floor use transparent glass that lets people peek into the activity inside. The HKS team dwelled on the details that would make people gravitate to the block: the dark brick and the trees adorning a wide sidewalk, the height of the planters framing outdoor dining areas dotted with bistro tables, the overhang providing generous shade during lunch time and happy hour, the benches offering a moment of respite. The goal was for the block to capture the social energy that makes city life electrifying.

Brian Fitzgerald, an HKS senior project architect and a lead designer of the building, watched this spring as people lingered at 2000 Ross for sandwiches, salads and conversation on what used to be a patch of asphalt covered in cars.

“It was exciting to see all of the restaurants that were open and had the outdoor seating, all the patrons out there livening up the place, compared to what it was before: the parking lot you were just trying to scurry past,” Fitzgerald said.