Discovery Green - Houston's New Urban Park - Opens April 2008

March 4, 2008
by Claudia Morlan

Discovery Green, a 12-acre park located in downtown Houston, will open to the public on April 13, 2008. The long-awaited destination fulfills a commitment from Mayor Bill White and major private Houston foundations to create and preserve green space within Houston’s central city. With its proximity to the George R. Brown Convention Center, Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center, Discovery Green is an ideal location for the city’s newest attraction.

“Discovery Green will be a wonderful attraction for our city,” said Mayor Bill White. “We are proud of the commitment from the Discovery Green Conservancy in creating this unique destination in the heart of downtown Houston. For a long time to come, Discovery Green will be an asset to Houstonians of all ages and visitors from everywhere.”

Emulating the model of great urban parks around the country, Discovery Green is designed as an engaging and active place with dedicated management and programming to serve all ages and backgrounds, as well as workers, residents and visitors alike. Formed at the inception of the project in 2004, the non-profit Discovery Green Conservancy was charged with all aspects of the development –including raising more than $54 million, as well as designing, constructing, and operating the park.

“We want our residents and families to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of Discovery Green,” said Nancy Kinder, Board Chair, Discovery Green Conservancy. “It was our goal to create a truly special destination for Houstonians with a tremendous range of activities and entertainment throughout the week.”

Driven by a passionate commitment to sustainable design and operation, the Conservancy is pursuing a “Gold Level” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification. LEED credits are earned based on site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources used in construction, indoor environmental quality and innovation in the design process. This will continue to be a priority as the Discovery Green Conservancy operates the park.

“We are dedicated to preserving the environment and have implemented recycling into every phase of the park’s development,” said Guy Hagstette, Discovery Green’s president. “Our irrigation system, selection of construction materials from sustainable sources and use of 250 solar panels to generate electricity are just an example of the commitment we have to a sustainable environment.”

One of the most exceptional features of Discovery Green is the way in which natural and structural boundaries create distinct sections with fluid movement from one area to the next. Designed by Hargreaves Associates, PageSoutherlandPage and Lauren Griffith Associates with a team of engineers and specialists, these carefully planned destinations allow the park to accommodate those seeking peace at the same time as those seeking activity. Much of this was accomplished via thoughtful use of organic boundaries, such as trees and water features.

Major Park Features
Prominent features visitors can enjoy include a one-acre lake, children’s playground, interactive water features, amphitheater stage and slope, small and large dog runs, public art works, HPL (Houston Public Library) Express, open lawns and great restaurants (The Grove and The Lake House) operated by Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group.
In addition to surface lot and park perimeter parking, the Convention District Garage, operated by the City of Houston, lies beneath the park.

This walkway forms the heart of the park and offers a 360-degree view of Houston’s skyline.

Kinder Lake, encompassing more than an acre of the park, features water gardens and a model boat area, a shallow pool specifically designed to accommodate remote-controlled watercraft operated by park goers of all ages.

Overlooking the park’s live oaks, Schiller Del Grande’s destination restaurant and rooftop bar offer patrons exceptional food, service and views of the park.

The Lake House offers fast, casual, family-friendly food, with views of Kinder Lake and the Jones Lawn.

This amphitheater hosts a variety of performances, including music, theater, film and dance, and is oriented toward a sloped lawn for audience seating. When the platform is not in use, it is open to all park goers, either as space to work, lounge or dine near The Lake House café.

The Jones Lawn is the park’s largest green space, providing ample area for major events or pick-up sports.

The Brown Foundation Promenade is shaded by 100-year-old oak trees, the largest of which is the Nancy G. Kinder Oak near Avenida de las Americas, one of four large live oaks moved to the park. 

The playground is carved into an existing, tree-shaded hill, which shields youngsters from the surrounding streets and integrates the theme of the major migratory bird flyway over Houston. Individual species are represented in the play sets, and accompanying signage educates visitors.

Overlooking the Gateway Fountain and John P. McGovern Children’s Playground, this building is where the park’s staff, information center and public restrooms are located.

The fountain offers a visual gateway to the park for visitors approaching from McKinney Street and is an extension of the playground area. Two systems of jets create a myriad of water activity atop a gently sloping granite surface, with 14-foot high arcing jets serving as gateway landmarks and smaller jets cycling on and off to invite park visitors for a closer look or some fun in the spray.

Discovery Green features new works by artists Margo Sawyer and Doug Hollis. Great care was taken to ensure the art installations would be visually prominent, yet at home, in the park’s environs. In addition, Jean Dubuffet’s Monument Au Fantome, an iconic sculpture by this world-renowned artist, has been relocated to the park.

Programming at Discovery Green
Discovery Green is more than a beautiful green space: it is an experience waiting to be enjoyed. The park comes to life with active programming during its Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons. Regularly scheduled music, dance, film and theater, as well as exercise classes, children’s events and an urban market, comprise the backbone of park programming. Park spaces also may be reserved for private and public events.

The public is invited to a preview event, “One for Doc,” a concert saluting Dr. Robert Morgan, Director of Jazz Studies Emeritus of the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, on Saturday, 
March 1.

The official opening of Discovery Green is Sunday, April 13 with Family Day featuring activities and events throughout the day.