The now closed McDonald’s in Midtown isn’t the only parcel at play in the area that could – when combined with a major proposed “sky park’ – help to reshape the southern edge of downtown.
The Greyhound bus station next to McDonald’s in Midtown is expected to close next year, laying the groundwork for a potential redevelopment opportunity in an area on the cusp of a major transformation. The site is near where economic developers are pitching a proposed elevated park on top of a section of Interstate 45 slated to be abandoned if state officials can move forward with their massive overhaul of the highway.
The proposed sky park is steps away from the Greyhound bus station at 2121 Main Street. A spokesperson for Greyhound said the bus station is open and running now, but they acknowledged Greyhound is looking for a different site.
Marlon Marshall, director of engineering and construction at Midtown Redevelopment Authority, said the closure of the McDonald’s site and the sale of the Greyhound station could benefit future Midtown development activity. While much is unknown, the potential for both sites to be redeveloped puts a spotlight on a section of Midtown that already could see significant change if city and local economic development officials move forward with the proposed sky park nearby.
The Midtown group is hosting a public meeting Feb. 22 on updates to its master plan for the neighborhood, which will include a discussion about what to do with Pierce Elevated, Marshall added.
The sky park proposal has been bandied about for several years and could become more of a possibility as the Texas Department of Transportation inches closer to launching the I-45 expansion.
The proposal involves converting an abandoned section of the highway into an elevated linear park stretching from roughly Heiner Street to Hamilton Street along the southeastern edge of downtown. The section of the highway is known as the Pierce Elevated.
Downtown economic development group Central Houston has pitched the elevated sky park as part of a broader effort to establish a 5-mile so-called proposed “Green Loop” of green spaces, parks and multi-modal pathways encircling downtown. The sky park itself could be reminiscent of the High Line Park, a former railroad spur in New York City converted into an elevated greenway.
“For me the opportunities are almost limitless, there are ways in which you can carve out sections (of I-45) and sell the dirt itself and have someone build a building abutting the freeway – whether it’s a hotel, residence or business and people could walk out of their residences and be on this esplanade that is above the grid,” said Allen Douglas, chief operating officer at Central Houston, who is also Midtown resident and board member of Midtown Redevelopment Authority.
We first heard of the Pierce Skypark back in 2015. The next update we had for it was that it was included in the Central Houston compromise proposal for I-45, the one that the city and county signed off on. I like the idea of it conceptually, though as noted then and now there isn’t a current mechanism to fund whatever the vision for this thing eventually is. I personally think TxDOT should have to kick in at least a piece of it, but beyond that I figure it would be up to the city and whatever developers get on board.
I mean, obviously turning this piece of downtown/Midtown from a busy highway overpass into a genuine urban amenity would be great for the city, and there’s limitless potential for what could be done with it. It’s also a reminder that turning the US 59 overpass on the east side of downtown into a larger US59/I-45 joint overpass would be not so great for that part of town, and that’s even before we take into account all of the current buildings that would have to be knocked down to make it happen. This is the issue with running interstate highways through the center of cities. Are we sure it’s too late to consider the proposal to re-route I-45 to either Loop 610 or Beltway 8? Please? Houston Public Media has more.