Public input on what the new park should look like has helped designers come up with a number of concepts for the 12-acre site. The city bought the four empty blocks across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center last year with plans to turn the space into a premier downtown destination for recreation and entertainment. Guy Hagstette is the interim director for the Downtown Park Conservancy, the organization that will maintain the park and says planners are getting closer to finding the right design. "What we're trying to achieve, and I believe we're getting there, is a place that has all the activities that Houstonians want but that is designed in such a way that it's memorable and iconic for Houston. And we're trying to get that combination of activity and design, and we're about there," he says.
Planners envision an urban space similar to Bryant Park in New York City, a small but vibrant area used for an array of activities. Preliminary plans include a small lake, walking trials, restaurants and a children's play area. Project administrator Peggy Manchaca says there will be something for everyone. "We think that the way that we've designed this and developed this is to have more than so many things that people can do, yet also have beautiful places of quiet respite and reflection so that you are, with topography and with berms and stuff like that, you can really isolate areas where it's very quiet, and yet go into a very busy, vibrant area," she says.
The project is still in the preliminary design phase, with a general idea what the park will look like without all the details in place yet. Mary Margaret-Jones is with the design firm Hargreaves and Associates and says the land is a perfect starting point for residential development that's expected later. "It's such an open plate for us. It's such a great site in terms of future, not just existing. In the future you have lots of highrise residential that will be surrounding this park," she says.
The park is expected to cost around $81 million, with groundbreaking set for next August. It should be complete by late 2007.