Two years and $15 million later, a makeover of Buffalo Bayou on the west side of downtown is complete. As Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson reports, the waterfront park covers 23 acres of landscape that used to be more of a dumping ground than a city asset.
Sandwiched between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway, the Sabine-to-Bagby Promenade along Buffalo Bayou looks nothing like its former self. Buffalo Bayou Partnership President Anne Olson says this was an area that most people avoided.
“There was a lot of erosion along the banks. The banks were a lot steeper. It was totally overgrown with weeds. You really couldn’t ride from Shepherd Drive on the west to the Theatre District because the trails were in such poor condition — cracked, in some cases there was no concrete there at all. So it really was a pretty unsightly area, and very, very — gave the feeling of being a very unsafe area, especially at night.”
But a major overhaul of the area has the bayou looking lovely and inviting.
“There’s lush landscaping. We’ve put in over 300,000 plants, I believe, over 600 new native trees. The one thing we’re really excited about are the 13 new street-to-bayou connections, either ramps or very wide stairways that allow people to access street-level from the bayou which is really a great improvement.”
One of the unique features of the redevelopment is a lighting system that’s timed to follow the 29.5 day Lunar cycle. Small white and blue LED lights will shift colors as the moon waxes and wanes. So a visit to the waterfront during a full moon will have paths lit with a soft white glow. Going back during the new moon phase, visitors will see a blue haze falling across the paths. And for one night only, visitors to the bayou can watch Houston’s first floating cinema. New York Artist John Reuben designed a barge with a huge movie screen where art films will be projected over the water.
“Because film itself is really ephemeral and water is very ephemeral, putting the two together seemed to — they seemed to double each other and really create a kind of magical effect. Especially the water at night is a very strange location, it’s both very kind of voluptuous and sensual and magical and it’s also pretty scary. It suggests death and a lot of other things. So it seemed like a wonderful ambience in which to present work and also one which wasn’t very developed.”
The floating cinema is part of the grand opening celebration tomorrow night from 7pm until midnight. The event is free to the public and will include boat rides down the bayou, live music and a fireworks display. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.