The city of Houston is buying land for a new downtown park.
The city has begun acquiring property for a 13-acre urban park that is likely to trigger substantial new development on the east side of downtown, Mayor Bill White said today.
White said the city signed a contract today with Crescent Real Estate Equities Inc. to purchase 5.29 acres just west of the George R. Brown Convention Center. The city will acquire the remaining, adjacent property by the end of the year, design the park next year and start construction in 2006, White said.
The park should be open by 2007, he said.
“You will see an explosion of growth around the periphery of this park,” White told the annual meeting of Central Houston Inc., adding that the new development would strengthen the city’s tax base and enhance the continuing revitalization of downtown.
White said private contributions would pay for at least 80 percent of the park’s estimated $80 million cost. The city’s contributions would come from hotel and entertainment tax revenues rather than property taxes, White said.
The new park, which would be the largest downtown and one of the largest in the central part of Houston, would attract convention visitors as well as local families, White said.
The park would complement the vision for downtown development over the next 20 years unveiled this week by Central Houston and other downtown organizations. The “framework for downtown development” calls for increasing downtown’s residential population from 3,000 to 20,000, and downtown leaders said parks were an important amenity to attract families to live downtown.
White said all great cities have preserved land in their centers for major parks. He said this may have been Houston’s last opportunity to acquire park property downtown before rising real estate values made it impossible.
“This will be a unique urban green space that will last for centuries in this community,” White said.
This is very good news, and quite frankly, it’s long overdue. I’m glad that the issue was recognized and the funding was assembled before the land became too expensive to purchase.
Kevin has some concerns about the costs of maintenance of this future park, especially in light of the city’s current cash crunch. That’s a valid point, regardless of whether you think the city’s current cash problems will be ameliorated by 2007 or not. Nonetheless, I believe this is a worthwhile investment. It’s also the sort of thing that I believe cities should make a priority. That this park apparently is a priority is a point in Mayor White’s favor for me.