2023: Designing the Future of the Southwestern Medical District Together!

The SWMD Transformation team is excited to share our reflections from a busy, inspiring 2023. Read on to hear more about the variety of local stakeholders who provided their valuable insight on the project last year, how our team progressed in the areas of our five project pillars, and the various opportunities where we had the privilege of sharing about the project at cross-disciplinary academic conferences and with the public through community presentations and the local media. 

💚 Learning from the Community with Engagement 💚 

After months of careful planning and reflection from Phase I, Phase II of Equitable Engagement officially began in the Spring of 2023! The team and our Community Engagement Partners, MIG and J. Williams Group, were busy with “boots on the ground” engagement in the District along with our digital engagement initiatives.

In 2023, we engaged a variety of organizations, groups, and individuals whose voices and perspectives represented a diverse array of experiences in the Southwestern Medical District. According to our calculations, we reached 2,431 people total through digital and in-person engagement activities!

  • Members of the Southwestern Medical District Running Club, SWMD Bike Club, Trinity Strand Trail Board, and the Dallas Bike Coalition shared first-hand experiences of the current state of cycling, walking, and running infrastructure in the District, and key changes they would recommend to improve the mobility and connectivity of the SWMD. 
  • Engagement events with the 3 hospital institutions anchoring the district included a speaking opportunity at UT Southwestern Grand Rounds community presentation series, tabling at Parkland Hospital's National Night Out event, focus group sessions with UTSW Medical Students, and a pop-up on the Children's Hospital Skybridge. These events were the perfect opportunity to reach the medical providers, students, and staff members who together represent the mission and identity of the District. 
  • We hosted focus groups with TWU Dallas physical and occupational therapy faculty, operations staff, and students, and UT Southwestern Medical Students who live and attend school in the District. Engaging discussion occurred about how to ensure the transformed space is accessible for children and adults with disabilities, and the opportunity for the Green Park to provide convenient, walkable access to rest, relaxation, and socialization for Medical District users amidst busy schedules.
  • A pop-up hosted at Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse and our Public Open House held at The Satellite allowed us to engage in important dialogue with local business owners and patrons in the District. 
  • Focus group participants included representatives from Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Sammons Center for the Arts, and more. Each provided valuable input on how their guests and patrons can be best served through the SWMD's transformation into a comfortable and safer corridor. 
  • We spent time with the Arlington Park community, the neighborhood adjacent to the Medical District, at two separate events last fall. Through critical community feedback, we were able to better understand residents' and families' current experiences as users of the District, and their desires for the District's transformation. 
  • At a pop-up at the DART Station near Parkland Hospital, we interacted with hospital staff, patients, and residents. Our conversations revealed excitement at the potential of more nearby amenities for recreation and relaxation, and the infrastructure improvements to come to Harry Hines Blvd. through the Medical District.

Throughout the year, we worked to locate community-facing events to participate in and pursued engagement activities with as many local stakeholders as time allowed. We worked diligently to share our (now closed) community survey at in-person events and online to capture as much feedback as possible. We engaged our digital network by sharing exciting project happenings, the principles and research guiding the transformation, and resources to get involved with the project. Have you checked out our virtual engagement platform yet? Stay tuned for as we update it in March with new renderings for the park and streetscape, community engagement findings from last year, and more.  

We are indebted to the community members who have provided their perspectives on daily life in the SWMD and their input on how the outdoor environment could better serve users ranging from medical staff to patients, residents, business owners, and patrons. The future of the Southwestern Medical District will be brighter thanks to every single person’s involvement! 🌟 


🏥 Designing with Purpose and Setting Precedents

in the Southwestern Medical District 🏥 

As we reflect on the previous year and look onward to 2024, we feel as if it is a good time to re-introduce our project supporters to the five foundational pillars of the SWMD Transformation project and our belief that every adverse health factor can be met with a positive design response. Ultimately, every aspect of our project is motivated by improving the 'One Heath' of the Medical District; encompassing environmental, mental, physical, and social health. Articulated below is our progress last year towards pursuing a holistic transformation of the public landscape in the Southwestern Medical District.  

User Experience: Ensure the corridor is easy to navigate and a place where everyone feels comfortable 

  • Conversations with regular users of the SWMD (e.g. medical students and representatives from the 3 main hospital institution) and data from our community survey have provided insight into common travel routes via foot, bike, and car in the Medical District. Understanding key destinations and preferred routes helps our team know how to best design for efficient movement through the District. Further, honing in on design considerations such as thermal comfort levels and accessible sidewalks and infrastructure will cumulate in a streetscape and park that all users are encouraged to get outside and enjoy.  

Campus Character and Livability: Create a unique, memorable, and economically vibrant place  

  • Last year, we engaged a diverse group of district users for their input on the SWMD transformation. Our partners at MIG are currently finalizing the Phase II Equitable Engagement Summary, which will ensure that community feedback is recorded and outlined for our design team at Field Operations to then incorporate into the plans for the streetscape and park. Realizing the community's vision for a vibrant and alive Green Park and Green Spine will support us in creating a landscape tailored to the identity and needs of the Southwestern Medical District. We know that the SWMD's transformation will encourage people outdoors, in turn increasing foot traffic to the local businesses. Further, we are looking forward to a dedicated phase of engagement with Harry Hines Blvd. business owners this spring.  

Human and Environmental Health: Improve environmental conditions to have a positive impact upon human health.  

  • This pillar is all-encompassing for our project and we have been working towards achieving a Medical District that promotes human and environmental health in the public landscape by employing an evidence-based design approach that can be broken down into three phases:  

📏 Measure: Our consultant, Hyphae Design Labs, utilized technology to capture high resolution satellite images of the Medical District, and this past summer, helped us deploy 7 microclimatic sensors throughout the Harry Hines corridor to capture real-time data of environmental conditions such as wind direction and speed, humidity, and radiant and ambient temperatures.  

📊 Model: A “digital twin” model of the SWMD’s terrain, buildings, existing vegetation, and surface materials was created.  

🔄 Modify: Using the data from the sensors, multiple scenarios are currently being run on the “digital twin” model to identify the best design interventions our team can administer to yield the greatest human health and comfort indexes. For example, we can prioritize tree planting areas near the greatest pollution sources, and maximize tree canopy coverage to provide cool summer shade near high foot traffic areas.  

Our evidence-based design work is the first pilot project across the United States that has been done at this scale and scope, and we hope that this step-by-step process will allow us to understand environmental health metrics at scale and allow us to test and validate design responses before implementation.  

Safety and Security: Enhance safety conditions by reducing collisions, increasing personal safety, and improving infrastructure. 

From the start, our plans to rebuild the antiquated infrastructure of Harry Hines Boulevard have solidified safety as a primary pillar of this project. Last year, our progress in this area included identifying how we will encourage a safer pace of vehicular traffic through intersection improvements and smart signals, collaboration with hospital and local security teams to address current and anticipated safety concerns, and beginning an operations and maintenance plan for the streetscape and park with the help of our consultant, ETM Associates.  

Traffic and Mobility: Enable continued access within the district for patients, visitors, emergency personnel, clinicians, and staff by studying car, pedestrian, and micro-mobility travel patterns within and around the District.  

In 2023, progress with our design plans included further solidifying the placement of pedestrian paths relative to the road and determining the location of a protected, 2-way cycle track on the west side of Harry Hines Boulevard. As our plans to beautify the overall landscape and add tree canopy coverage become more detailed, we know that our actions now will help us realize future benefits such as influencing drivers to travel through the District at a safer pace.  

SWMD Project Pillars_complete

📰 Education and Project Awareness through Conferences, Presentations, and Media Communications 📰

In 2023, we had many amazing opportunities to share with others Texas Trees Foundation’s evolving mission and the history of our project, along with the innovative and collaborative evidence-based design work we’re doing in the Medical District to shift the narrative when it comes to designing public spaces for environmental and human health. 

Some of our most memorable conferences included the following:  

We are always grateful to be able to share the values of holistic health that are driving this project forward, to both those in and outside of our field. The response in Melbourne was particularly exciting as the reception from a wide range of global experts affirmed that the work we are doing is truly precedent-setting, with the potential to influence a variety of other public space re-design projects.  

Last year, we were able to spotlight the innovative, evidence-based design work we’re pursuing in the Southwestern Medical District through 8 different local and state media publications.  

It’s no coincidence that the hottest months of the year were also the months we were the busiest sharing information about the implications of extreme temperatures on human health. As average high temperatures soared to 98.3 degrees in Dallas Fort-Worth this past summer (Dallas Morning News), the Foundation and the SWMD Urban Streetscape project were featured across publications including CBS Texas, D Magazine, KERA, Texas Monthly, and more, casting light on the dire need to design public spaces to be more comfortable, safe, and cool and how this purpose is guiding our work in the Southwestern Medical District.

Missed any of these stories last year? Check out the In The Media section of our webpage for a comprehensive list of our media publications. 


2024 will be a year full of connections, discoveries, challenges, inspiration, progress, and more; all bringing us closer to a realized park and streetscape transformation in the Medical District. Thank YOU for your continued support of the project in 2023, we are thrilled about the transformation we are building together!


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