Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, regarded as a park around downtown, has been named one of the Great Places in America by the American Planning Association.
The organization’s Great Places in America recognizes unique and exemplary streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces – three essential components of all communities. These authentic places have been shaped by forward thinking planning that showcases diverse architectural styles, promotes community involvement and accessibility, and fosters economic opportunity.
“This year’s Great Places in America reflect the diversity and resiliency of communities regardless of size or location,” said APA chief Paul Farmer. “From Buffalo Bayou in Houston to Fifth Avenue in New York City and Beacon Hill in Seattle, these and the 27 other 2012 Great Places show the many benefits and lasting value created in communities that plan,” he added.
The organization just announced country’s 10 Great Neighborhoods, 10 Great Streets, and 10 Great Public Spaces for 2012. Listed in random order:
2012 Great Public Spaces
Buffalo Bayou, Houston; Bienville Square, Mobile, AL; Cesar Chavez Park and Plaza, Sacramento, CA; Washington Park, Denver, CO; Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago, IL; Chicago Union Station, Chicago, IL; Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA; Village Green, Bar Harbor, ME; Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, OR; and Ritter Park, Huntington, WV.
2012 Great Neighborhoods
Garden District, Baton Rouge, LA; Lower Highlands and Historic Downtown, Fall River, MA; Fells Point, Baltimore, MD; Heritage Hill, Grand Rapids, MI; Downtown Salisbury, Salisbury, NC; Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA; Cooper-Young, Memphis, TN; Fairmont—Sugar House, Salt Lake City, UT; Beacon Hill, Seattle, WA; and Downtown Walla Walla, Walla Walla, WA.
2012 Great Streets
Duval Street, Key West, FL; Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO; Main Street, Bozeman, MT; Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY; Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY; Wall Street, Kingston, NY; Shaker Boulevard, Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Beachwood, OH; Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA; Broad Street, Charleston, SC; and Gay Street, Knoxville, TN
A nine-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou, from Shepherd Drive, through downtown, to the Turning Basin Overlook Park, was considered for the award. Mayor Anise Parker is calling the bayou “Houston’s Central Park.”
An increasing numbers of bikers, hikers, and dog walkers today take advantage of the 20 miles of trails that weave through central Houston’s section of the bayou. Special events like the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, now in its 40th year, and the annual Kid’s Day bring thousands more people to the bayou every year. The annual Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July event brings more than 100,000 attendees to Buffalo Bayou Park.
A $30 million gift from the Kinder Foundation, the largest private donation for park development in Houston’s history, catalyzed the launch of a $55 million renovation of the Bayou’s Downtown Sector in mid-2012. The Buffalo Bayou Park: Shepherd to Sabine Project is expected to be complete in late 2015.