Did Super Bowl LI Bring About Permanent Improvement To Houston’s Landscape?

There have been many changes in the weeks and months leading up to the Super Bowl, but most of it would have been done anyway.


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The eastern part of downtown Houston is a bustling place this week, with Super Bowl Live, the week-long fan fest around Discovery Green, and the NFL Experience inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The new pedestrian-friendly Avenida de las Americas was finished just in time for the festivities.

Also new is the Mariott Marquis hotel, and the half-ready Midtown Park serves as another Super Bowl event venue (the complete park is set to open later this year).

All of these places would have been built with our without the Super Bowl, but not necessarily so soon.

All of these places would have been built with our without the Super Bowl, but not necessarily so soon.

"Super Bowl put an end date on it," Peter McStravick, chief operating officer with Houston First, said. The quasi-governmental organization directed some of the development.

"But the improvements themselves were really driven by the demand that we saw that we needed both for conventions as well as for the residents."

He said the dynamics have changed since 2004, the last time the Super Bowl was here.

At the time, not many people wanted to live downtown, but now many young professionals are moving back to the city center.

And so while Super Bowl XXXVIII similarly served as a deadline for some projects like expanding the Metrorail and improving Main Street, the goal to revive downtown back then failed.

"There was an effort made – a wonderful effort – in bringing more retail, restaurants and bars to the downtown area," McStravick said. "Unfortunately, just due to the economic situation, that did not totally play out."

He said many downtown restaurants that opened for the last Super Bowl had to close a few years later for lack of demand.

Since then, the downtown population has more than doubled to about 5,400 residents in 34 buildings.


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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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