For years, downtown Houston was an automobile-centric, placeless district without any public spaces for residents to congregate. Project for Public Spaces was hired by the Discovery Green Conservancy to lead a community engagement visioning process to transform 12 acres of underused green space and parking lots near the Convention Center into an urban oasis. The new park would serve as a village green, a source of health and happiness for Houstonians, and a window into the diverse talents and traditions that enrich life in the city.
The park opened in Spring 2008, and it has been phenomenally successful. It now attracts more than 1.5 million visitors to its 600+ free events annually, consistently drawing local patrons. Discovery Green has catalyzed $1.25 billion in nearby development; several residential and commercial projects have expressly noted Discovery Green as the impetus for their investment. The park has also boosted business at the nearby Convention Center. Still, most importantly, Discovery Green has put downtown back on the map as a place for Houstonians to play, relax, meet one another, and even as a place to live.
According to State of Place, an index measuring ten proven factors of walkable urban design, the streets surrounding Discovery Green rose from a score of 29 before placemaking activations to 60, increasing 31 points. "Walk This Way," a Brookings Institution report on Washington, DC, found that an increase of 20 points in this index yields premiums of $9/sf in office rents, $7/sf in retail rents, $300/unit for residential rents, and 80% in retail revenue.
Over 1.5 million visitors attend Discovery Green's 600 free events each year, tripling initial attendance estimates. The audience is overwhelmingly local, too, with over two-thirds of visitors from within Houston's Beltway 8 ("the loop"), and another quarter from Houston's suburbs.
When the city purchased the 12 acres of land that would become Discovery Green in 2004, it consisted of two large parking lots and an underutilized green space. When the site reopened in 2008, it had become a green oasis in the city, balancing LEED-certified sustainable infrastructure with public access to nature and other uses.
Since opening in 2008, Discovery Green has spurred $1.25 billion in nearby offices, hotels, and residential development—a 10:1 return on investment. The new park has also helped lure significant events to the adjacent convention center.
Community Engagement & Visioning
Place Concepts & Designs