(Houston Business Journal) — Those who live, work or play in Houston’s downtown will soon have another green-space option.
The Downtown Redevelopment Authority approved leasing a site for a new public park in the southern area of Houston’s downtown, according to a March 13 press release. The park will occupy three-fourths of a block bounded by Bell, San Jacinto, Leeland and Fannin streets.
The remaining one-fourth currently serves as a surface parking area for faculty and staff of South Texas College of Law, which owns that portion of the lot, a spokesperson said.
The property also currently houses a Goodyear Auto Service Center, at 1519 Fannin St., and is about three blocks northwest of the Toyota Center and two blocks southwest of the mixed-used development GreenStreet.
Later this spring, the DRA will ask for community input regarding the design and programing of the green space and release the request for qualifications for the park design team. Construction of the new park is expected to begin in mid-2019, and it should open in the summer of 2020, per the release.
“Great cities are defined by their public spaces, both large and small,” Xavier Peña, DRA board chairman, said in the release. “Here in downtown Houston, Discovery Green, which anchors Avenida Houston, and the much smaller Market Square Park, located in Downtown’s Historic District, are two hugely successful parks that have had a catalytic effect on the areas surrounding them. We believe this new park can be equally dynamic and, in its own way, become the heart of a new neighborhood and an economic development tool for future growth.”
This project supports Plan Downtown — a 20-year vision plan for the downtown area that was approved last November — by creating an open space to promote visitor appeal, business climate, livability and connectivity. In addition to a 5-mile-long “Green Loop” recreational trail, the plan also calls for better transit options, 4,000 more hotel rooms and 12,000 more residential units.
Since 2012, more than 1,500 residential units have been built in the southern portion of downtown — where the new park will be located — thanks to the Downtown Living Initiative, per the release.
This tax incentive program was launched in 2012 to spur residential development in the city’s central business district. In 2014, the number of residential units that could receive the $15,000 tax break doubled to 5,000. That unit cap was hit by the end of 2015.
The park will be just across the street from Alliance Residential’s new Block 334 apartment complex at 1515 Main St. and within just a few blocks of several others, including both downtown Skyhouse towers, Houston House at 1617 Fannin and the 1711 Caroline apartments.
“Thanks to the success of the Downtown Living Initiative and the commercial development it has stimulated, we are well on our way to establishing diverse, multigenerational neighborhoods across downtown Houston,” Bob Eury, DRA president, said in the release. “This new southern downtown park space will serve as a backyard for nearby residents and a ‘third place’ that will anchor community life and foster experiences for Houstonians and visitors alike.”
Some major revitalization projects that wrapped up downtown a little over a year ago include the renovations of the George R. Brown Convention Center, including the creation of Avenida Houston; the addition of the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis; and scores of new restaurants and retail stores.