February 20, 2005
Museum district expansion

Several Houston museums are looking to expand.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is planning an expansion that would bring a massive gallery of 20th century art to its Museum District campus just off Main Street.

A couple of blocks away, the Children's Museum of Houston wants to nearly double its size, adding gallery space and enlarging the courtyard.

And just to the north, Asia Society Texas has cleared a block to build Asia House, which will include exhibition space, a performance hall and a library to showcase Asian-American culture.

Throughout Houston's Museum District, a part of town anchored at the intersection of Binz and Main Street, similar new facilities, expansions and renovations are under way or planned at many of the 16 institutions that make up this growing cultural center.

That's a great part of town to be in, and there's clearly a lot of exciting stuff going on. It's very pedestrian friendly, and apparently is about to become more so.

[Susan Young, administrator for the Houston Museum District Association] said the light rail system and a new Main Street exit ramp off U.S. 59 will help shape how the area develops.

The Museum District is already served by three rail stops because it stretches from the Montrose area on the north to near Rice University on the south.

And the new freeway ramp, Young said, marks the first time since the 1950s that traffic has been able to conveniently reach the arts district.

Young also said the "museum walk," a federally funded infrastructure plan, will improve the area by linking pedestrians and Metro riders to the museums and district landmarks through walkways and signs.

Asia Society Texas chose the area for its new museum partially because of its proximity to light rail.

I think a problem that Houston has had from a visitor's perspective for a long time is that there isn't all that much to do in downtown during the day. There's plenty at night (now, anyway), but if you're a business traveller or the companion of a business traveller staying in a downtown hotel with no car, your options were limited because the Museum District isn't close by. The light rail has conveniently linked the two, and now it's a lot easier to imagine spending a day as a tourist under those conditions. I think that's an underappreciated aspect of the rail line. Maybe someday when we finally have extensions to the airports and the Galleria area as well, it will be more obvious.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2005 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

The other nice thing is that it's easy to get to the museums for lunch or after work. I work in the med center and have go over to Cafe Express in the MFA about once a month for lunch. The rail stop makes it easy. I have a little bit of time to wander around the Beck Building after lunch, or even skip lunch and go see what's going on at the CAM.

Granted, I probably go to art museums more than the average Houstonian, but it's been nice having this alternate route. Last year's Inverted Utopia's show at the MFA was one of my favorite shows ever, and I loved being able to take it in slowly over a period of weeks over the lunch hour instead of trying to absorb it all at once on a crowded weekend.

Posted by: 'stina on February 21, 2005 12:35 PM