Corpus Christi, TX (1991-1994)

The phrase “bus transfer center” may not conjure images of magnificent public spaces. Most are sterile, soulless environments designed for the convenience of buses rather than riders. But that didn’t hold back Tom Niskala and Steve Ortmann, two leading officials at the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), when the city allocated a small percentage of its sales tax for transit improvements. They brought in PPS because they wanted their new station–where several bus lines converged–to break the mold.

The City Hall Bus Transfer Center has become a destination for Corpus Christi residents.

Using the money smartly, the city could kill two birds with one stone, addressing both low levels of bus ridership and the lack of destinations within the city center. PPS’s concept was simple: The transfer center would become a unique downtown destination. Conceived as a town square centered around old-style train station sheds with Spanish architecture and terra cotta details, the station would be designed mainly for bus riders, not buses. Located across from City Hall and adjacent to the historic center of Corpus Christi, it would be linked to the surrounding neighborhood by pedestrian- friendly intersections, which 5,000 bus riders were projected to cross every day.

Completed in 1994, the City Hall station won a Federal Design Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. More importantly, it embodied the efforts of many people in Corpus Christi. Local architect John Wright was a major contributor throughout the process, and the 1500 hand-painted tiles that decorate the station were designed by local residents ranging from the Mayor to school children to inmates at a nearby prison. Today, downtown residents and workers go there to meet up with friends or simply people-watch. In short, it has become a true place.