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How to Elevate Houston’s Downtown, Midtown and EaDo

Ralph Bivins, Editor of  Realty News Report.

Ralph Bivins, Editor of Realty News Report.

(Editor’s Comment) – Realty News Report urges Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner  to support a plan to demolish the Pierce Elevated, a barrier that has discouraged growth from spreading from Downtown to Midtown. Keeping the Pierce Elevated intact with a contrived plan to transform this ugly freeway into an elevated park are well-intentioned, but a misguided misfit for the climate of Houston and the characteristics of this urban site. The ground level space underneath the freeway is dirty and horrible and its highest use in the current form has just been an unofficial campground and restroom for the homeless. Tear it down and reclaim the land as a linear park.

The Mayor must also lead in developing an over-the-freeway park over the soon-to-be depressed freeways on the east side of the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Klyde Warren deck park in Dallas, which opened in 2012, is drawing huge crowds and high praise, not to mention a major ULI Urban Space Award. It’s enabled people to walk from downtown to Uptown Dallas. Land prices near the Dallas park have skyrocketed, leading a Trammell Crow/Met Life joint venture to pay a record-setting $390 per square foot for a old drive-in bank facility fronting the Dallas park. Crow is now building an office tower on the site, called Park District, and a residential tower and retail are coming next for this well located parcel. Other developers are doing deals near the park. Dallas leaders are now discussing an expansion of Klyde Warren, covering up more of the freeway with a park.

The deck park in Houston could take some of the success of Discovery Green park into the EaDo district on the east side of downtown. Private funding needs to be secured for Houston’s over-the-freeway park.

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,” said landscape architect James Burnett of the Office of James Burnett, a firm founded in Houston in the 1980s.

“It would be a game changer for Houston,” Burnett told Realty News Report recently.

Realty News Report has interviewed a number of Dallas leaders and North Texas real estate professionals about Klyde Warren Park. After decades of journalism, rarely have I heard such wide praise for a park or any public project, in terms of its powerful transformative nature. It’s an outstanding project that is in-step with Mayor Turner’s goals (more walkability and the need to spread quality development to more neighborhoods) and the needs of Houston. Improvements have been made in EaDo on the east side of downtown Houston over the years. Looking ahead five or 10 years, this park will be the thing that makes EaDo more than we ever have dreamed.

This plan, under consideration by TxDot, will remove the barriers on the east and south sides downtown Houston. More growth can spread to the neighborhoods around downtown, bringing more opportunity, a larger tax base and a brighter future.

May our leaders step forward now and make this dream come true.

— Ralph Bivins, Editor Realty News Report

August 19, 2016 Realty News Report Copyright 2016

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