Proposal to reinvent site where President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas getting mixed reviews

A proposal to reinvent Dealey Plaza, and even close Elm Street where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is raising concerns from preservationists.

One year from now will mark 60 years since the assassination of President Kennedy, and that has the architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News arguing that it is time to redesign Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass.

But preservationists say that closing Elm Street would be closing a window to history. 

"On the street are the X's where Oswald's bullets made impact," Preservation Dallas President Norman Alston said of the site.

It is where hundreds of thousands of people travel from around the country each year to gain a better understanding of the assassination of President Kennedy back on November 22, 1963. 

"You can still come and experience this place the same as they did at that time, you can stand where Abraham Zapruder took his video," Alston added.

Alston, a historic preservation architect, said what makes this national historic landmark powerful is its authenticity. 

"To have a site this much intact, is quite rare. A lot of places wish they could have that," he said.

Alston said preserving it at the time wasn't easy.

"There was one school of thought that we tear down the schoolbook depository, we change all of this, and we eradicate every vestige of this event, as if it never happened," Alston said. "I can understand that. It wasn’t a pleasant thing. It was very difficult for the city, but cooler, and I think better thoughts came out of that. That, no, we have to, as we say now, own it. Dallas has to understand that this happened, we’re not going to forget it. We’re not going to undo it." 

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Now, as the city approaches the somber 60-year milestone, a new conversation is unfolding, one started by Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster.

He wrote last month that "change is both necessary and inevitable. In the coming years, the path through Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass will become the primary conduit between Downtown and the $250 million Trinity Park."

The new vision presented by one architecture firm in Boston would, in part, introduce a memorial overlook linking Dealey Plaza and Martyr's Park, the little-known greenspace that cars zip by on the exit to I-30 or I-35. 

It would also close Elm Street to cars and turn it into space for pedestrians, with memorial pools marking the points where the bullets struck President Kennedy. 

Dallas Parks and Recreation Board President Arun Agarwal supports the ideas presented. 

"The most exciting part is the discussion is happening need to get public info, resolve issues of historians, make sure they are part of the process," Agarwal said.

Agarwal said rather than erase history, the goal would be to make it more accessible.

"I would define it as drive-thru history. This is the 6th Floor Museum, this is on the right, this is on the left. By activating this, it is where people are spending their day," he said.

The design director commissioned by the Dallas Morning News said there are no formal next steps. 

They want to be sensitive to the site, which is a National Historic Landmark. 

He said the proposal put forward is the beginning of a design, and they are still gathering public input.