Richmond Avenue is lined by restaurants and shops. At the corner of Mandell there’s a piece of green space that on one side is lined with white elephants, they are meant to prevent cars from using it as a parking lot. Originally, a library was supposed to be built there. When those plans were abandoned, the lot for a time became over grown and became a dumping ground. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports on a neighborhood that cleaned up the space and is now taking steps to make it more attractive for the greater Houston community.
From the street, it just looks like a lawn, but behind a row of trees an organic garden has been maintained since 1992.
“Well I’ve got some sorrel and I wanted you to taste it and we just picked it and everything is organic. It’s an herb and it’s wonderful in salads.”
Janet Neath helps coordinate the gardeners. She goes on to pick some basil, parsnip and okra. Besides the gardeners, butterflies and birds have found the garden. Skip Almoney hopes the rest of Houston will discover it also. He’s president of the Friends of Mandell Park. The group plans to redesign the park.
“In a way that keeps it green, has some artwork in it, maintains the community garden and is just a respite in the city so people can come and relax.”
A couple of blocks north on Mandell on the other side of Richmond is the Menil Museum. Also on the mind is the possibility that the lite rail line might pass by the park.
“Right now it’s largely used as a pocket park by the local residents. Our goal is to make it a much wider community park. That’s why our hope maybe the rail will have a stop here if it comes through here. We’re trying to make the park so that people driving down Richmond see it and want to come here, not just drive by and see gee, look green space. We want to make this a destination for people outside the neighborhood.”
The group is looking to architecture students at the University of Houston to come up with the design. UH Professor Raphael Longoria is interested in designing outdoor public spaces. His students have been involved in many projects including developing the master plan for League City’s park system in 1995. Longoria says they try to avoid what he calls ‘cookie cutter’ parks. He looks for creativity from his students who are typically in their fourth year.
“And this is the first time they design a landscape project. Up to this point they have been doing mostly buildings. It’s also first time they have an intensive interaction with a neighborhood group. So it has been a great experience for them to get introduced to a whole other aspect of architecture.”
One of the students working on a design is Myra Guardiolla. She says presenting her designs to the neighborhood residents reminded her of being at a science fair. Guardiolla is making adjustments to her group’s design of winding paths after hearing from the neighborhood.
“One lady of the ladies was really concerned with how the trash is going to be located and how we have to set up in the garden. So we’re going to take that into consideration as well. And how the garden is going to evolve into the northern part of the site. So that’s what we’re going to take into consideration toward the next process.”
The neighborhood is voting later today on a final design. You can see pictures of the park and one possible design plat at KUHF dot org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.
University of Houston architecture student Marianne Do describes her team’s design for Mandell Park. It was the one selected by the Friends of Mandell Park.
Drawings are of the conceptual design which is subject to changes and approval by City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.