Profile: Amy Meadows
According to Walkscore.com, downtown is the most walkable neighborhood in Dallas, scoring a 94. While I may protest Walkscore’s label for “Excellent Transit” with a score of 8, it does include a disclaimer that transit is convenient for most trips. The label “Very Bikeable,” with a score of 78, is somewhat accurate — depending on the weather, of course.
What’s a Walkscore? The score is compiled from quality of life categories including dining and drinking, culture and entertainment, shopping, errands, groceries, schools, and parks. Downtown Dallas scores a perfect 100% in three buckets: dining and drinking, culture and entertainment, and parks.
I’m not sure that a decade ago downtown Dallas would have received a perfect score for parks. City leaders brainstormed how Dallas could compete with the likes of Chicago and New York City for population growth. In fact, before the first master plan for parks was completed in 2004, there was only one park. Since that time, there has been a transformation. When I moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, among the most appealing qualities to me were the quantity and quality of parks throughout the city. I was floored the first time I saw Klyde Warren Park, and I quickly realized that these parks are what shape the vibe in Dallas.
None of these accolades would be possible without the commitment and dedication of Amy Meadows to the city of Dallas. Amy has been leading the efforts for the development of the Downtown Parks Master Plan Update (2013) as the president and CEO of Parks for Downtown Dallas (PfDD) for the past three years. Amy and I met for lunch in 2021, and it was like meeting a friend I’d known for years. She is humble in recognizing her influence and role in the transformation of downtown Dallas.
PfDD is a nonprofit foundation that works collaboratively with the City of Dallas. The foundation has an overall goal to advance the long-term development and support of public parks within Downtown Dallas while promoting a more livable and resilient city center through advocacy for green space. By spring 2023, the last of the four urban neighborhood parks, Harwood Park, was completed as part of the public-private partnership with the city. Pacific Plaza, West End Square, Carpenter Park and Harwood Park have added more than 13 acres of park space to Dallas. This is no small task: Amy oversees almost $40 million in bond money and $56 million in private investment to make this grand project happen.
Amy is well qualified to oversee the transformation of downtown Dallas. Before taking the reins at PfDD, she was vice president and executive director of the Belo Foundation for over 10 years. During that time, the foundation oversaw both the design and construction of Civic Garden that was an integral part of the original Downtown Parks Master Plan in 2004. Before joining the foundation, she was the executive director of Social Venture Partners Dallas and director of communications for Fidelity Investments Southwest.
The parks in Dallas create a pedestrian-friendly, pleasant vibe. They’ve complemented the vast development throughout the city and have mutually benefited from each other. Historic properties, new towers, offices, restaurants, and retail along with these parks have pushed professionals out of the tunnels that once ruled the pedestrian circulation of downtown and given residents a special place to visit. The urban core has blossomed into a destination for families as well.
The popularity and success of the parks can be attributed to Amy’s vision, or what she refers to as “experiential environments.” The parks are highly designed, and each one has its own personality. While Klyde Warren has programmed events and a coordinated food truck presence, these four urban pocket parks will have distinct features. Among them: a large children’s playscape, water tables and fountains, workspaces with charging capabilities, separate dog parks, porch-style swings and space for temporary art installations. There is also a concentrated push for sustainability, greening up the downtown area, widening pedestrian sidewalks and replacing some parking lots.
Amy helped launch a $25 million endowment campaign for the upkeep of the parks. The PfDD and the City of Dallas have multiple public-private partnerships, with the goal of improving and expanding the established parks.
Plainly the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for more public green space and parks for recreation and the opportunity to get outside. The connection to nature and the ability to provide a place for respite have proven invaluable for elevating mental health in these challenging times.
Amy’s efforts to create such spaces have encouraged families to move downtown, adding diversity to a population that had been mostly made up of young singles and established professionals. Over the past few years, they’ve become neighbors enjoying walkable areas, arts and culture, diverse communities, and award-winning charter schools.
Amy’s passion for Dallas isn’t limited to the parks initiative. The Meadows family has long been immersed in community service and philanthropy with the Meadows Foundation. For over 25 years, Amy has volunteered on multiple boards including North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA-TV and radio), Philanthropy Southwest, Dallas Women’s Summit, and the M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation in Kansas City. Amy’s husband, Michael, is a philanthropic consultant, and they are parents of a son, 26, and a daughter, 17. A sense of community, gratitude and giving has always been a cornerstone for Amy, but now she is charting a different type of legacy in Dallas.
“Dallas has always wanted to be labeled as a world-class city, but now we are becoming just that. The quality of life here is wonderful. Our imposter syndrome is finally gone,” Amy said.
A job well done, Amy. Thank you!
Alison Leonard, AIA is senior health care programmer at Blue Cottage of CannonDesign.
Photos by Conleigh Bauer