Downtown Houston Rediscovers Green with New Eco-Centric Park


image by trevor reichman

What was a large downtown parking lot in Houston just a year ago, is now Discovery Green, downtown Houston’s new urban park. Underneath the park, an underground parking garage now accommodates the same number of cars as before…no more, no less. An above ground portal, designed by Austin artist, Margo Sawyer, takes drivers from their cars below the Earth up to almost a dozen acres of new centrally located parkspace. Park Attracts New Downtown Residents

Claudia Morlan (Public Relations) explains that the new park has spurred an increase in new, unplanned, downtown residents…fish, turtles, and birds. It didn’t take long for them to reclaim their space once the asphalt was removed. The manmade one acre lake easily maintains lake levels because water catchment from roofs of solar paneled structures are fed right into it.


image by trevor reichman
Instant Community

Where cars used to park now serves a weekly farmers market, free yoga, concerts, art installations, a water park for young and adult children, a library with public computers and wifi, a restaurant, bar and cafe powered by solar panels, a recycling program for downtown residents, and last but not least... PHOTOSYNTHESIS.


image by trevor reichman
Nature Takes Over after Help from a Human Rescue Effort.

A centerpiece of the park is a grove of century old Oak trees, some of which were already there, and some which were rescued and replanted from nearby. The largest rescued Oak stands 50 feet tall and weighs 420,000 pounds! It was moved with a 32-foot diameter root-ball six feet deep, using one 400-ton-crane and one 500-ton-crane. Estimates place its age at 80 to 100 years old. While the park has only been open for about 6 months, nature is making an incredible comeback. Besides the park's firmly rooted Oak grove, it didn't take long to also establish a wetland area teaming with life, and gardens with prolific native grasses and plants.


photo by Craig Hartley
A Working Model

Claudia Morlan explains that the successful develoment of Discovery Green and it's immediate popularity is due to the fact that, even though the park is a city project, it is operated by a private non-profit organization. Not only did the Discovery Green Conservancy raise about half of the funds for the project, they were also in charge of the design, construction, and ongoing operations and management. This combination of public/private management and funding relationship follows the successful model of Bryant Park in New York City. It is a healthy way to break though municipal bureaucracy and project stalling.

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Tags: Communities | Ecology | Farmers Markets | Texas | Urban Planning | Water Conservation