HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) — Downtown Houston has evolved in the last 40 years, adding density, dwellings, and destinations of entertainment that increase 24-hour activity in the central hub, a key downtown leader says.
For many years the Houston’s Central Business District was just that – a place where businesses took care of business – until employees went home for the day.
“The sidewalks rolled up at 5 p.m. It really was a single-purpose place,” said Central Houston Inc. president and CEO Kristopher Larson.
Then, with leverage and leadership from the Central Houston organization, downtown was gradually energized by layers of projects and policy, in what seemed like an impossible, uphill challenge to doubters and non-believers as suburbanization trends drew retail and residential to the sprawling outlands.
On Thursday, Central Houston Inc. hosted the annual State of Downtown 40th Anniversary Luncheon at the Hilton Americas, a 1,200-room downtown convention hotel that opened 20 years ago and became part of the urban turnaround.
With conventions, more hotels, more residential towers, more restaurants, more bars and more parks, the number of people in downtown Houston has grown over the years.
People came to see the Astros win – and lose – at Minute Maid Park. When the stadium opened in 2000, it was named Enron Field, but after a corporate financial scandal and bankruptcy in 2001, the stadium was renamed after a more palatable orange juice manufacturer. People came downtown to see the Houston Rockets and various rock stars play at the Toyota Center arena, which opened in 2003. The Central Houston organization was supportive of the stadium and the arena, although heavy financial lifting was supplied by Houston-Harris County Sports Authority, an entity created by the Texas Legislature through a bill sponsored by State Sen. John Whitmire.
Play, Live — and Work
And Downtown Houston became a place where – as of today – more people come to eat, drink and be merry at a concert or a game, than come to work inside a skyscraper, Central Houston says. Over 39 million people visited downtown for non-business purposes over the last year.
“40 years of investment in diversifying Downtown has produced a very different place than when Central Houston began,” said Larson. “Previously perceived as a business district with limited leisure options, Downtown has evolved into a vibrant destination that offers an abundance of experiences. Today, the number of visitors exceeds employees, and the residential community has surpassed pre-pandemic levels and continues to grow. We are tremendously proud of Downtown Houston’s past and even more excited about its future.”
Larson became president of Central Houston Inc. in October 2021. He replaced the highly regarded Bob Eury, a visionary leader who became president of the non-profit organization in 1983.
Eury, who retired in 2021, pushed the highly successful Downtown Living Initiative, a city-backed program that offered residential developers a $15,000 per unit in incentives. The program resulted in the development of 4,251 new multifamily units, primarily in high-rise towers.
More residential will be added through the conversion of skyscrapers to apartments. A conversion of a downtown Houston office tower to multifamily is currently underway by a group led by Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Under his leadership, the 49ers won five Super Bowls.
Downtown Houston +
At the Central Houston luncheon, Larson also announced a total rebuild of the organization’s website and a rebranding.
The new brand is now “Downtown Houston +.”
“Aligning the collective efforts of Central Houston Inc., Central Houston Civic Improvement, Inc. the Downtown Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ#3, and the Houston Downtown Management District, this new umbrella brand enables a single point-of-entry to all things Downtown and streamlines access for Houstonians and visitors to enjoy everything that Downtown has to offer,” the organization said in a press release.
Nov. 3, 2023 Realty News Report Copyright 2023
Photo by Egidio Narvaez, Courtesy Central Houston Inc. Caption: Kris Larson at State of Downtown event Nov. 2, 2023
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