The American Planning Association (APA) has named Discovery Green in Houston as one of six Great Public Spaces on APA’s annual Great Places in America list.
“I’m proud that Discovery Green is gaining this national recognition for what Houstonians already know it to be: the city’s village green, and a great place for people of all ages,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The park’s founding is a true example of Houston’s can-do spirit, leading to what is now a dynamic gathering place for downtown residents and workers, a destination for visitors from the region and beyond, and a reflection of what makes Houston such a vibrant, culture-rich city.”
APA’s Great Places in America program recognizes the streets, neighborhoods and public spaces in the United States demonstrating exceptional character, quality and planning—attributes that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth, and inspire others around the country. The Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Public Spaces of 2019 are places that are unique and exemplary in their success stories of revitalization, cultural identity, and strong community connection.
“The public spaces recognized this year demonstrate the importance of planning in creating welcoming, multi-use spaces for the entire community to enjoy and come together,” said Kurt Christiansen, FAICP, APA president. “Discovery Green is a national example of how public-private partnerships can unite to make a shared community vision a reality.”
For years the eastern end of downtown Houston was considered a “sea of parking lots.” Despite new sports stadiums and the longstanding hallmarks of the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel, few Houstonians looked to the east side as a viable place to live. As the City of Houston studied ways to activate the area, the heads of the city’s four largest foundations approached then-Mayor Bill White with the idea of a public green space. Joining together with the City in a transformative public-private partnership, these foundations would design, build, open and operate a park in what was once a 12-acre surface parking lot.
The City of Houston created the framework for the park’s construction and operations, including the role of a new organization, Discovery Green Conservancy, to operate the park. The public was engaged in the design and development of the park, which features sprawling lawns, a one-acre lake, an interactive fountain, a playground, public art installations, gardens, an allée of century-old live oaks and two on-site restaurants. Today, the Discovery Green Conservancy works with hundreds of programming partners to present more than 700 artistic, musical, educational, family-friendly and health-focused events each year, most of which are free to the public. In addition to providing much-needed green space for city residents and visitors to enjoy, Discovery Green has proven to be a huge catalyst for development, with more than $1.25 billion in new projects since its opening in 2008.
In addition to Discovery Green, APA also recognizes the following Great Public Spaces in 2019:
- Pioneer Park – Mesa, Arizona
- Neponset River Greenway – Milton and Boston, Massachusetts
- Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook – Amsterdam, New York
- Governors Island – New York, New York
- Gathering Place – Tulsa, Oklahoma
Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, APA has recognized 303 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces around the country. Designees are selected annually and represent the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.
For the sixth year, members of the public can suggest their favorite public space, neighborhood, or street to earn a “People’s Choice” designation. Throughout October, individuals can offer suggestions via APA’s social media channels using the hashtag #APAgreatplaces. APA will select five finalists that the public can vote on via APA’s website. The “People’s Choice” winner is announced in early November 2019.
For more information about APA’s Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Public Spaces for 2019 and previous years, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.
Learn more about APA’s National Community Planning Month by visiting www.planning.org/ncpm.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides vital leadership in creating great communities for all. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the profession of planning – physical, economic and social – to foster quality of life for all residents. The 45,000 members work in concert with community members, civic leaders and business interests to create communities that enrich people’s lives. Through its philanthropic work, the APA Foundation helps to reduce economic and social barriers to planning. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Learn more at www.planning.org.