Culture / Newsy

Houston’s Getting a New Showcase Downtown Park Near the Innovation Corridor: Old Auto Shop to be Turned Into Vital Green Space

BY // 11.20.18

A Downtown Houston acre is about to go green. The Downtown Redevelopment Authority is working on a brand new showcase park in Downtown’s southern side that it plans to unveil in October 2020.

The new L-shaped green space will feature all the mainstays you’d expect for a slice of serenity in an urban environment: a fast-casual restaurant, an open stage, outdoor exercise space and greenery aplenty.

But this one will have some additional standout features, such as a sustainable rooftop garden and a space that’s both dog-friendly and features a contained space where pups can go off-leash.

The site is currently a Goodyear Auto Service Center. The space is decidedly moving away from motors and into nature, on land that’s bounded by San Jacinto, Bell, Leeland and Fannin.

The design phase will conclude in July of 2019, and construction will begin later that year.

The Downtown Redevelopment Authority has tapped Lauren Griffith Associates to design the yet unnamed park. Griffith has a long line of popular park designs, including Market Square Park, Discovery Green and Sesquicentennial Park. The firm is also responsible for the Central Library’s Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza.

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Gensler will design the fast-casual restaurant and other structures in the new park.

“Green space is the number one draw for a park, when you need that respite from the urban environment. It needs to be organized so that it can be programmed for special events, but it needs to be flexible so people can use it for casual down time,” Lauren Griffith tells PaperCity.

The designer hopes to knock it out of the park. She was drawn to the project because of the inherent activity of a park, inspired by restaurants in other Houston park — see The Grove in Discovery Green and Niko Niko’s in Market Square Park — the concerts, classes and more.

This particular park holds special allure thanks to its position along the city’s new Innovation Corridor.

“We think that’s Houston’s future. We would like to tap into that and express that,” Griffith says.

“We want this to be a node where people can come to get away from their jobs to rest or recharge, or maybe work outdoors, to bump into each other and collaborate. A lot of innovation is about serendipity, and making a beautiful green space for that to happen is something we aspire to.”

The southern downtown park presents a unique opportunity because it’s largely residential, primarily millennial, without too many restaurants and bars.

“It’s kind of a different pace. That’ll make a very different park,” Griffith says.

Crafting a Park

For starters, the petite parcel needs to be handled with incredible attention to detail. “Every square inch matters. It’s almost more like thinking of it as a sculpture garden,” Griffith notes.

downtown park aerial 2
The park will add much-needed green space to the highly residential area.

Griffith plans on a considerable amount of public outreach to find out what the community most desires, and factor that into the plans. The first public meeting on the park is slated for mid-February.

Lush gardens are top of the list based on past research, so Griffith is bringing in trees and creating gardens on the ground as well as the roof of the restaurant for a more unique, peaceful option with a special view.

“It’s a place for people to really experience nature in the middle of the city,” Griffith says. “It’ll be another green space in an underserved area.”

The southern Downtown park is set to balance the green spaces within downtown and the Plan Downtown project, a 20-year plan for the area. Roughly 1,500 new residential units have been added over the last six years, with some still in development or planning.

And it goes beyond that district.

“It will serve as a link in the chain of green space moving from Downtown to Buffalo Bayou down to Hermann Park. It’s part of Downtown’s comprehensive plan for a green loop that goes around. This will be a stop on that loop,” Griffith says.

She imagines people biking down the bayou and popping over to this new southern Downtown park to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the sunshine.

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