Culture / Newsy

Downtown Houston’s Brand New Park Promises to be a Dog Paradise — With Outdoor Dining and Plenty of Green

It's All About the Trees at Southern Downtown Park

BY // 05.05.19
photography Downtown Redevelopment Authority

It looks like Houston is getting even more green space. The Downtown Redevelopment Authority just released details on a brand new slice of paradise amid the pavement.

Southern Downtown Park — official permanent name TBD — is set to open in 2021.

Lauren Griffith Associates will design the landscape architecture and Gensler will handle the park cafe’s restaurant look.

Located on the 1500 block of Fannin between Fannin, San Jacinto, Bell and Leland, Southern Downtown Park promises Oak tree-lined paths, dog runs, rotating art installations, a fast-casual cafe and more.

But don’t expect the next Discovery Green. Southern Downtown Park is striving for a more intimate, backyard-type feel, set on an L-shaped one-acre plot of land. It’s a much smaller scale, and it’s suited to the surrounding area.

“We wanted it to be as close to the epicenter of all the residential projects being built down there,” Bob Eury, president of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, tells PaperCity.

“The park is really being designed to serve the growing neighborhood in the south end of Downtown. We are well aware that if you look around, there is a lot more residential in that area than we used to have. This is really meant to work on a different scale. We want it to be that neighborhood place.

“It’s obviously welcome to everyone, but it’s very important to the folks who are living and working in that area also.”

The schematics have been released, and the planning all started around a detail you might not expect. “It’s not really complicated. It sort of starts with dogs,” Eury laughs. “No, seriously, it does. Then we get to the people.”

Southern Downtown Park will feature two separate dog runs, one for small dogs and one for larger breeds.

southern downtown park dog run (Photo by Downtown Redevelopment Authority)
Southern Downtown Park is starting with the dogs. (Photo by Downtown Redevelopment Authority)

To take care of the human end, Downtown Redevelopment Authority officials kept their ears to the ground and heard one word reverberate more than any others.

“What we heard loud and clear was green, green, green, green,” Eury says.

The plan is for lush, verdant gardens. The flora-filled zones will be on the north side, bordering Bell, and the south side, bordering Leeland, which will also boast a water feature, mounds, a trellis area with seating and bike racks. The zones will be connected through a shady, curving walkway.

Large Trees Rule

Visitors won’t have to wait long to laze about in the shade — even though the area is completely paved at this moment.

“One thing that was very important was that we budget for fairly large trees when it’s built because of the importance of the green. We can’t put tiny little trees in and wait for them to grow. We’re not patient,” Eury laughs.

Park visitors will able to enjoy the fresh air even if they dine at the fast-casual restaurant, which will have space for about 56 people inside and seating for 40 people outside beneath the canopy. The counter-service cafe, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, will come in at 2,400 square feet and be made of warm, neutral materials. The cafe operator has not been chosen yet, but the selection will be announced later this month.

Light was a major factor, with the cafe designed to crate a lantern-like landmark, in keeping with the park’s integrated lighting throughout, meant to create a unique experience.

“The idea is to have inside-outside space that’s flexible. The idea is you could possibly even do events inside, which could be interesting. Again, not really big. It could be crafts,” Eury says.

The restaurant patio will sit next to a sort of flexible recreation space. Imagine games like cornhole, ping-pong and small-scale events. “And there’s a small play area for children, something attractive to them that they can use,” Eury says.

The walls around the edges of the park are adaptable, easy to raise or lower for climate control or special events. The eastern wall could even act as a screen for guests to watch movies outside in the evenings.

Programming will take cues from the park’s cozy size, not overwhelming the central lawn with activities. “Programming would be medium-sized, for 50 to 150 guests. That doesn’t sound like Houston. We’re like 1,000, tens of thousands,” Eury laughs.

“The larger parks have really big events, which is fantastic, believe me. I could not be more supportive. But this is a residential park. Our intent is we always want to be welcoming to the casual user who just comes into the park on a Saturday afternoon, not taken over by an event.”

Eury views Southern Downtown Park as a pivotal piece of the overall Houston push toward green spaces.

“You could see it as a system, where you really have major parks like Hermann or Memorial and for that matter even in the way it works, Buffalo Bayou park on sort of a regional scale,” he says.

“This is really just meant as a green space, a green oasis.”

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