COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Houston Celebrates the Grand Opening of Downtown's New Market Square

Megan MacIver
Nov 3, 2010
Dec 14, 2017

"This is the perfect park: it has history, it has green space, it has food, it has places for the pets, it has places for kids to play, it has art- this is going to be the heart of this area- and the events that we do here are going to be that heart beat!"  - Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker joins local officials and stakeholders in breaking plates to commemorate the opening of Houston's new Market Square

With its exciting opening this fall, Houston's Market Square promises to live up to the community's early vision of the area as a magnet destination that would increase tourism and make downtown   Houston more livable and vibrant. At lunchtime -and throughout the day- Houston   Market Square, in the center of Downtown Houston's Historic District, now bustles with activity as visitors come to enjoy a new   Greek café, performances, shaded seating, a water feature, and bike   racks. A large dog run also attracts residents who have quickly adopted   the park as their main community space.

Houston's Market Square is but one of PPS Parks and Downtown projects which have recently opened to great fanfare: Pittsburgh's Market Square also recently re-opened, drawing crowds back to the city's core. PPS' involvement in Houston's Discovery Green and Detroit's Campus Martius have spurred Downtown Development in both cities.

It's almost impossible to think that just a few years ago this same square at the center of Houston's Historic   District was once described as "lifeless" and "creepy" and was featured in PPS' Hall of Shame.

Houston's Market Square before Placemaking interventions (a vintage from the PPS archives)

In 2007, Project for Public Spaces was called on to guide the future  development of Houston's Market Square Park.  PPS began a community-driven process to gather information on the  neighborhood and on the existing conditions of Market Square itself. PPS  conducted a visioning process that resulted in a concept plan that was  to make Market Square Park a place that would anchor the district and  spur further revitalization.

Crowds flocked to Market Square on opening day

As part of the final report, PPS also outlined dynamic programming for  the park,  including rotating  events such as farmers markets and holiday markets,  movies, exercise  classes, a library kiosk, as well as play areas for  children. Creating a vibrant livable downtown for Houston has been an  ongoing effort for the city, with PPS as a partner on several parks and  square including Discovery Green and Emancipation Park.

Read the whole article here.

According to this article in Houston Downtown Magazine, Houston's new Market Square is part of a "key tactic" of “giving modern purpose to  historic spaces ... for the  entire Historic  District’s renaissance over the past 20-plus years.” Two  issues central to the project were how to acknowledge the historic  importance of the site as Houston’s first public space (and the site of  several City Halls until 1960), and how to accommodate a number of  site-specific artworks that were created as part of the previous design.  PPS worked with a number of those artists to incorporate their works  (and in  some cases update the works) into the new square and the  designer (Lauren Griffith Associates) took the footprint of the City  Hall for the site of the main lawn.

"With the renovation of Market Square Park," said local restaurant owner Jamie Mize, “we will further the goal of helping create a true urban neighborhood in the north end of downtown and encourage property owners in the area to develop their properties.”

If you have been to Market Square since its re-opening:

What do you like best about the Square? What would you do to improve it? Do you have any stories to share from before or after its reopening?

Megan MacIver
Megan MacIver
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