Activating Oak Farms
“One more round!” I shouted, picking up two more bean bags. This was the first time I had played cornhole and with disc golfers watching and live music playing, it was difficult to stop. My brother stood across from me, his back facing the street that was packed with more cars than I’d ever seen in the area. People were still arriving, heading toward the signup booth for the 18-hole tournament or joining their friends in the hammocks around the Biergarten. What a night, I thought, sending a bean bag skidding past the hole.
In early June, we launched Oak Cliff Open, the first part of a series of activations in the Oak Farms Dairy site on the corner of North Lancaster and East Colorado. Through a partnership with Tree Love Disc Golf, we kicked off the series with a course extension featuring nine new holes scattered around the site’s industrial zone that sits flush with a spectacular city backdrop.
The tournament and open play brought out around 80 disc golfers, including a state champion and players from as far as Brownsville and Oklahoma.
From noon to 10 p.m., we saw around 200 new faces either playing disc golf, listening to one of our three performances, or playing a game in the Biergarten. Neighbors trickled in to experience the new use of space and try some Azucar Ice Cream and Casa Masa’s tamales.
As the evening rolled on, we were joined by music buffs who were eager to hear the Marbriago Trio perform after the weather canceled Symphony in the Park. Disc golfers, neighbors, and other friends sat listening under the Biergarten’s string lights as dusk set in over the course.
Prior to Oak Cliff Open, the Oak Farms site sat vacant for several years, collecting empty beer bottles and food wrappers along its edges. In the 1920s, the grassy corner of Jefferson and Colorado held a baseball stadium called Burnett Field, where minor league baseball teams, including the Texas Rangers, played until 1964. Next door to Burnett Field, the historic production plant called Oak Farms Dairy opened its doors in 1936 and produced milk primarily for 7-Eleven stores for several decades. In 2014, the factory zone and its surrounding property was purchased by a group of local developers called Cienda Partners.
Cienda Partners has a new vision for what this space can be for the Dallas community. Because of its proximity to Oak Cliff’s streetcar and its notable view of downtown, developers believe this pocket of Northeast Oak Cliff is destined to be a people place. Philip Wise, Director at Cienda Partners, told D Magazine, “We really want to build out a walkable, mixed-use community that doesn’t exist in the core of Dallas today. We’re trying to bring jobs and people across the river.”
With zoning for up to 20 stories of mix-use, the space has the potential to be a hub for vibrant housing, outdoor recreation, entertainment, and business activity. Cienda is also making an effort to collect feedback from surrounding neighborhoods. “They’re a community that cares,” founding partner Barry Hancock told D Magazine, “So you can’t come in and say ‘This is what we’re going to build— stand back.’ You have to work with them.” Cienda asked us to help reimagine the space in the context of its location and history through a series of activations to engage the Dallas community.
Watching this once untapped space provide new options for leisure and recreation for neighbors was a huge victory for us. The disc golf was well received and it was suggested that we host a larger tournament or even a children’s tournament in the future.
During the last week of June, we hosted an outdoor movie night in the space. Guests brought picnics for their families, their four-legged friends for company, and even their own hammocks for a romantic date night. Through a partnership with Texas Theatre, we began to watch The Princess Bride from the lawn as the sun set around us.
We are eager to see the Oak Farms site continue to serve and engage our community as we kick off more activations throughout the year.