May 15, 2023

Discovery Green® Selects Kathryn Lott as New President

Southern Smoke’s Executive Director, Kathryn Lott to assume role July 1st when current president Barry Mandel retires.

Kathryn Lott is seen leaning against a stone wall. Barry Mandel is seen leaning against a metal handrail in the gardens at Discovery Green in downtown Houston.

The board of the Discovery Green Conservancy is announcing the appointment of Kathryn Lott as its new president when Barry Mandel retires on July 1. Lott currently serves as Executive Director of Southern Smoke Foundation.

Discovery Green transformed two surface parking lots in an under-used portion of downtown Houston into a vibrant green space and a safe welcoming oasis when it opened in 2008. The park is essential for the more than $1.8 billion in development that sprang up in a two-block radius. Discovery Green’s role as a downtown attraction has grown Houston’s visibility as a travel destination. It helped grow downtown economically and as a place to live, play and work.  

The Discovery Green Conservancy is responsible for the care, maintenance and programming of the 12-acre urban green space. As a pioneer of the public-private partnership model for public parks, the Conservancy is also responsible for raising for the more than $6 million annual budget the greenspace requires.

“We wanted to ensure the new president continues the park’s success at the high caliber level it has achieved today,” said Discovery Green Conservancy’s Board of Directors Chair Julie Sudduth. “The landscape for parks in Houston has changed since the opening of Discovery Green as has the neighborhood that surrounds it so the board wanted someone who could be visionary. We think Kathryn is the right person to lead Discovery Green into the future and are thrilled she has accepted the role.”

Lott brings to her role as Discovery Green Conservancy President two decades of unique experience in nonprofit administration and event production. Her experience makes her uniquely qualified to connect, nurture and cultivate communities through the arts, wellness and urban green space.

She has worked for prestigious organizations like Southern Smoke Foundation, Houston Grand Opera, Society for the Performing Arts (now known as Performing Arts Houston), and the Children’s Museum of Houston. In 2014 she co-created Lott Entertainment, where she produced large-scale projects and events for nonprofit organizations including Discovery Green, University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Baylor College of Medicine, Legacy Community Health, East End Chamber District and more.

“The role of president at Discovery Green encapsulates everything I ever dreamed of in my career. I look forward to caring for a beautiful and respected green space while fundraising for programming and performing and visual arts,” Lott said. “I am eager to incorporate Houston’s technology into the landscape of the park and continue to make an impact in the community.”

Mandel’s leadership began in 2010 after the founding president, Guy Hagstette, left. In that time Discovery Green helped attract conventions such as Starbucks, Microsoft and Google and was the venue for large-scale events such as Super Bowl Live, Final Four NCAA March Madness Music Fest and more. The park received a Good Brick Award, was voted one of America’s favorite parks and was named to the American Planning Association’s Great Places in America in 2019.

Mandel’s leadership enhanced and diversified free entertainment for the community including a renowned public arts program, educational events, health and wellness events, and community celebrations such as Rainbow on the Green® and Earth Day. Under Mandel’s leadership, Discovery Green grew into a cultural treasure shared by Houstonians from every background, inside the loop and out. It’s the place where Houstonians go to discover Houston.

“You do not know how much joy it gives me to turn over something I love to someone I love, said Mandel who served as Lott’s mentor when the two worked together in the downtown Houston arts community. “I know she understands the essence of this place and how much it means to me, the team and the community.”