Midtown Park

The Midtown Redevelopment Authority did not like their mini-park’s redo and so they took the brave stance to acknowledge that problem and redo it again. This time they “hit a home run”. The images speak for themselves.

The new park has a small privately operated concession stand with outdoor seating where the fees help defray the cost of park maintenance. Click here for a location map.

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The fountains.

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The no-leash dog area.

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Preserving History During the Conversion to a Park

By Chip Perry.jpgBethel Missionary Baptist Church was in serious need of major repairs when it caught on fire in 2005.  Then Mayor Bill White stepped in to have emergency bracing installed to keep the three remaining walls from collapsing. The City bought the site from the Church–who had already moved to a new location before the fire–with the intent to create a historic park.

Most of the story is contained in a well-written article by Lisa Gray published 12/8/2013 in the Houston Chronicle. The rewarding part, at least to me, was the archeological work inserted into the construction process as construction got underwayHouston-20130607-01917.jpg.

The project was large enough that an archeological phase 1 was required.  You might say that should not matter and do it anyway. But, public funds can only be spent on required things or services; not what any staff member thinks is eligible. So, we had to find a way to do it anyway.

Dr. Ken Brown’s students (from University of Houston) were working in the area on early African American culture. He was particularly interested in what the original residents or their ancestors brought with them from Africa. The dirt below the remains of the old church could hold a host of information and artifacts. He was joined by the Community Archeology Research Institute (CARI) lead by Dr. Carol McDavid. They figured out how to work hours and times that fit into the construction process. 2013-05-09 12.59.49.jpgThe contractor, Turner Construction, Inc., worked with CARI, Dr. Brown and city staff to allow the on-site digs by students to occur.  Much credit and thanks is due Turner’s staff for helping this effort to succeed.

Ms. Gray’s article relates well what I enjoyed hearing Dr. Brown and Dr. McDavid tell us on more than one occasion.

Go to the post Bethel Park Respecting Memories of Bethel Church  —  Coming Soon.

Pocket Park at the Ball Park

IMG00272-20110729-1325.jpgAt Minute Maid Baseball Park–home of the Houston Astros–there is a privately maintained park space open to the sidewalk with perfectly maintain grass, plants, trees, statuary, and covered benches that are actually dugouts in the simulated ball field setting. As you walk to the edge and glance in the park you will get the feeling of neighborhood baseball games.  Next time you are going to a game take a moment, step off the sidewalk and enjoy the space, the baseball history and a serene moment. Continue reading

The New Library Plaza

Library Plaza3.jpgThe Houston Public Central Library in downtown was always a wonderful modern facility with great windows and views in a modern multi-story brick building with escalators. That is a long way from the one where I grew up. But time past and it needed to be updated–particularly to serve the internet connected world.  Along with the inside improvements the outside plaza area was overhauled. Continue reading

Bull Rock Under a Bridge

CIMG6777.JPGBridges have a way of attracting an element of society that is unfortunately something we must deal with — the homeless. This post is  not to propose making their lives harder but rather to share a solution for controlling public space under bridges.

I came across a solution that seems to be almost perfect as it is cheap, no one will steal it, you cannot sleep on it and it should age and discolor evenly and look like other aging concrete structures that are not considered unsightly. Continue reading

Layers in Downtown

An aspect about downtown Houston, and likely your city, that many mCIMG1695.JPGay not consider when rushing to work, the theater, a ball game or out to dinner is that there are layers that go beyond the streets, sidewalks and many floors of the buildings; even beyond the pedestrian tunnels here in Houston. Admittedly downtown Houston is flat–or seems to be–until you approach Buffalo Bayou on the north and west side of the Theater District.  The varying levels of public space provides an aspect of letting one “escape” that, for me, takes the space to another dimension. Continue reading

A Quiet Place under an Oak Tree

CIMG5870.JPGThis small space on the edge of the much larger Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston is not one you can plan ahead unless someone began 100+ years ago by planting the oak tree.  The space gives me the feeling I think a rabbit would have when scurrying out of site under a bush.  The rabbit would look up through the stems and leaves to see if the humans were still there.

The rabbit and I have that in common as while sitting on the bench and looking past the tree’s canopy to the skyscrapers on the other side of the street and beyond I realize the giants are not going away and I have to go back to work. Continue reading

Benches below the traffic

Buffalo Bayou under Smith St.The two benches in this photo are below Smith St. and on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. The concrete walkway was one of the initial pathways along the bayou that winds through the north end of Downtown Houston. In very heavy rains the water can rise almost to the bottom of the bridge. When it recedes the next day the benches have a small collection of debris and the trees look like they have been in a washing machine. Continue reading

Victory Gardens for Sustainability

SDC10341.JPGThe City of Houston is working to encourage sustainable aspects of life in the big city and one is to show how “victory gardens” can easily be started and enjoyed. In the case of the latest demo the garden adds a new dimension and reason for enjoying a great public space–Tranquility Park.

The first area created for container gardens is at the corner of Walker and Smith Streets in front of the City’s building known as 611 Walker. The latest location is in Tranquility Park across the street from the first. Click for Map. Continue reading