Racing to Save Astrodome – A Run at Redevelopment

HOUSTON – (By Cynthia Lescalleet for Realty News Report) – Beloved and sometimes bemoaned, Houston’s Astrodome is a landmark in search of a viable legacy – for all to share.

Astrodome Conservancy is spearheading efforts to raise awareness of its dual mission: stewardship and partnerships in both preserving and redeveloping the aging iconinto something sustainable and truly accessible.

Toward that — and as part of a fresh public engagement campaign by the organization, an inaugural virtual Race for the Dome  invites participants to get active (literally) in supporting efforts to create a vibrant future for the long-languishing property.The shuttered asset is owned by Harris County and looms silently in tandem with NRG Stadium.

Held April 2-11 Astrodome Conservancy’s upcoming event offers a spot on format for these socially distanced times in that registrants  can independently run, walk, bike, hike, hop, scoot, skate and so forth a 5K race.

That’s a distance equal to about eight laps around the 8thWonder of the World, organizers say. As presented in registration materials: “Your race. Your route. Your schedule. Your Pace.” Meanwhile, the first 200 registrants get special access to onsite laps on April 10 and the first 500 receive some snazzy dome sunglasses.

A stewardship and advocacy organization founded in 2016, Astrodome Conservancy is aware of the landmark’s history but is focused on securing its future, said Beth Wiedower Jackson, executive director.

As such, the conservancy raises private funds and seeks partnerships to support efforts to move the county closer toward “a viable, sustainable and more accessible” use for the Dome.

The property was designated a Texas State Antiquities Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission in 2017 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Structurally sound, it’s not going anywhere, Jackson said. Its next generation, however, remains a progression of ideas, due diligence — and funding.

The conservancy has raised $1.5 million to date to support its mission of awareness and economic redevelopment via innovative partnerships. Creative programming – such as a virtual race — is part of that package.

Thinking Outside the Dome

While a partnership between public and private sectors has netted successful development and redevelopment of civic and cultural assets for the City of Houston, such as Discovery Green, the approach is new idea for county entities to navigate, Jackson said.

Another hybrid example — on a grander scale — is a network of underutilized infrastructure transformed into new urban spaces, such as the Hemisfair’s redeveloped 40-acre campus in San Antonio and Park Avenue Armory’s repurposing as a cultural hub in New York City.

Times Changed and Still Changing

Architects Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson plus local firm Morris, Crain & Anderson designed the concrete and columned Astrodome during Houston’s Space Age civic mojo. It was go-go years brash. It was a mid-century bunker. It was often copied.

When it opened with a Houston Astros game on April 9, 1965, Houston’s domed stadium ranked as the first enclosed, air-conditioned sports arena, with nine acres under its roof. While the ceiling rises 18 stories inside, three levels sit below grade for a tidy scale above the sea of parking lot.

During its glory days, the Astrodome was a home for Houston sports teams, championships and exhibition games; a venue for the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and equipment-laden Offshore Technology Conference; and echoing hall for the 1992 Republican National Convention. By 2002, when Reliant Stadium opened, Dome use had dwindled, though it did yeoman’s duty housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. By 2009, it was shuttered.

Now is an ideal time for working behind the scenes and taking a private funding approach to support possible project development, Jackson said. And, like the 5K race, to get things moving.

March 28, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

Astrodome exterior photo 2021: Photo credit: CALpix

File: Racing to Save Astrodome: A Run at  Redevelopment

For more about the Astrodome check out Chapter One of the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon   

File: (2) Astrodome Conservancy. Racing to Save Astrodome April 2-11 2021. Hermon Lloyd. Morris, Crain & Anderson.

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