HOUSTON – Freeways can create impenetrable barriers for development. Freeways can serve as effective borders between neighborhoods of mansions and blighted slums. So naturally, altering the freeways can change growth patterns and change cities.
It’s a concept being discussed by Houston civic leaders and the Texas Department of Transportation and it could change downtown Houston and the surrounding urban areas.
The proposed reworking of the freeway network around downtown Houston consists of two main components. (1) Rerouting/removing the Pierce Elevated freeway, which is Interstate 45. (2) Depressing the freeways on the east side of downtown, taking them below grade around the convention center. And the ambitious part of the proposal is creating a deck park – a green space – above the sunken freeways.
The Depressed Freeway. This proposal concerns the east side of downtown where U.S. 59 runs beside the George R. Brown Convention Center. Interstate 45 would be moved there also when the Pierce Elevated is gone. Currently, the freeways are a barrier between downtown and the EaDo district on the east side of downtown.
Taking the freeways below-grade, or underground, opens the possibility of putting a park – like a lid – on top of the freeways. It’s happening in 50 cities around the nation now.
The new over-the-freeway deck park in Dallas is hailed as a major success. In Dallas, the Klyde Warren Park, which was built over the depressed Woodall Rodgers Freeway, opened in 2012. The 5-acre Dallas park features a children’s park, reading room, a great lawn and a botanical garden.
Could a Houston freeway deck park do for EaDo what the Klyde Warren Park did for downtown Dallas?
“These parks are reconnecting neighborhoods and districts, and the majority of these are in downtown areas similar to East Houston. These green bridges can make a huge impact as proven in Dallas. It would be a game changer for Houston,” said Houston landscape architect James Burnett of the Office of James Burnett.
Burnett designed the aforementioned award-winning Klyde Warren over-the-freeway park in Dallas. Burnett is the recent recipient of the 2016 American Society of Landscape Architects Design Medal – the equivalent of winning a Pulitzer Prize.
“The creation of a park above the underground freeways will change the landscape of the CBD,” said commercial real estate valuation expert Mark Sikes, principal of Houston-based Deal Sikes & Associates. “The development of downtown Houston’s Discovery Green park on the west side of the convention center created opportunities for successful high-rise residential, office and hotel development. If completed in a world-class fashion, the east side park land over the underground roadways, could be a true catalyst for EaDo District and east Houston development.”
“The success that Dallas experienced with its over-the-freeway creation of green space for Klyde Warren Park could be repeated in Houston with this downtown freeway plan,” Sikes said.
July 28, 2016. Copyright 2016 Realty News Report