Trudi Smith, Buffalo Bayou Partnership
713.752.0314 ext. 103
HOUSTON – October 10, 2019 – After developing Buffalo Bayou Park and other award-winning green space projects in Houston’s downtown, the non-profit Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) is moving east. Encompassing a four-mile stretch of the waterway from US 59 to the Port of Houston Turning Basin, Buffalo Bayou East will continue the organization’s legacy of transformative parks, trails and unique destinations. The plan includes:
- 40 miles of new and improved waterfront trails and bikeways
- 200 acres of new and improved parks and open space
- 7 new boat landings
- 7 new pedestrian bridges
Development of the soon-to-be-released Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan comes after nearly two years of significant input received at meetings and other outreach events attended by more than 700 people. Social media and bilingual mailings reached more than 50,000 neighborhood households.
“This plan is about investing in a community that hasn’t benefited from the same level of park funding that more affluent communities in Houston have seen,” says Anne Olson, Buffalo Bayou Partnership President. “Being true to the context of the neighborhoods lining the bayou is very important to us. Buffalo Bayou Partnership wants to create parks and destinations that really are ‘of’ the Greater East End and Fifth Ward – two areas that have historically been separated from the bayou and each other.”
Olson points out the bayou’s east sector has a very different character and scale from the western stretch of the waterway. With steep banks and a wider channel, the bayou does not experience the flooding that occurs upstream. And unlike the bayou’s western stretch where the parkland is primarily in public hands, there are large swaths of abandoned industrial sites privately owned.
Over the past 15 years, Buffalo Bayou Partnership has purchased more than 70 acres of property in the east sector, donating some parcels to the City and County for park space. Other sites, still owned by the organization, include interesting industrial relics such as massive concrete silos, a barge dock lined with gantries, and even an abandoned City of Houston sewage treatment facility. The Master Plan calls for repurposing these sites to celebrate the area’s industrial legacy and Houston’s history as a Port City.
Gas Works Park in Seattle, Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx, and numerous sites in Germany’s Ruhr Valley are examples of former industrial sites that have been renovated into attractions. BBP is a member of the High Line Network, a coalition of park groups from throughout North America, all of which are focused on industrial reuse. The High Line in New York, The Underline in Miami and The 606 in Chicago were repurposed from abandoned railroads, highways and other infrastructure.
“Buffalo Bayou East’s amazing industrial sites serve as a unique backdrop for creating new public spaces unlike anywhere else in Houston or in the country,” says Chris Matthews, lead designer of the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan. “I applaud Buffalo Bayou Partnership for its commitment to seeing these industrial relics remain and incorporated into the bayou’s landscape.”
Embracing the east sector’s cultural heritage is another tenet of the plan. Whether it’s the colorful murals and Tex-Mex cuisine of the East End or zydeco music in the Fifth Ward, the parks and green spaces BBP envisions will incorporate the area’s rich cultural traditions.
Because of its proximity to downtown, Buffalo Bayou East is quickly becoming home to new residents and creative entrepreneurs have converted industrial buildings to makerspaces. While Buffalo Bayou Partnership leaders realize the area is in transition, they feel it is essential that existing families from the area remain and participate in revitalizing this hidden corner of Houston.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership assembled a high caliber group of consultants to develop the 20-year Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan, including Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (MVVA), an internationally recognized landscape architecture firm and HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading real estate, economic development and public policy firm. Both firms have had recent design and planning work in Houston. Other master plan consultants included Houston’s Huitt-Zollars (Engineering), LimnoTech (Hydrology), and Utile (Urban Design and Architecture).
Cary Hirschstein, a Partner at HR&A Advisors, says Buffalo Bayou East is one of the most exciting open space projects he’s seen across the country in recent years. “This is a once-in-a-generation endeavor to reconnect communities to their bayou. The scale of the Buffalo Bayou East waterfront, the rich industrial and cultural legacy, and the bayou’s spectacular natural beauty – all just minutes from downtown Houston – make for a unique opportunity. Houston has been a national leader in creating transformative open spaces, but Buffalo Bayou East offers a special opportunity to put equity, authenticity, and a community focus at the core of park planning.”
Buffalo Bayou East can become a precedent for how parks can be a catalyst for inclusive growth and development. To address economic and social inequities in the neighborhoods along the bayou, the Master Plan calls for creating connections between communities long separated from each other and integrating workforce housing and small neighborhood businesses into the park and trail network.
Olson says, “Buffalo Bayou East is a park plan but so much more. It’s about creating a common meeting ground that long-time residents can call home and visitors can enjoy.”
Buffalo Bayou Partnership is hosting a free waterfront party to launch the Master Plan on Saturday, October 26, Noon-4 p.m. at 5803 Navigation Boulevard. The event will include music, food and children’s crafts activities. Free bicycle helmets will be given to the first 100 attendees.
To communicate the priorities and progress of the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan, Buffalo Bayou Partnership will present:
- Buffalo Bayou Park and Beyond: A Panel Discussion on Monday, October 28, 6:30-8 p.m. Panelists will include: Guy Hagstette, Kinder Foundation Vice President of Parks & Civic Projects; Cary Hirschstein, HR&A Advisors Partner; Scott McCready, SWA Principal; and Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Director Anne-Marie Lubenau, who will be presenting Buffalo Bayou Partnership with The Rudy Bruner Award for Excellence 2019 Silver Medal for Buffalo Bayou Park. Serving as panel moderator will be Bill Fulton, Kinder Institute for Urban Research Director. The event is free and open to the public.
- Free walking, boat and bike tours throughout November.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Established in 1986, Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) is the non-profit transforming and revitalizing Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource. The organization’s geographic focus is the 10-square mile stretch of the bayou that flows from
Shepherd Drive, through the heart of downtown into the East End, and onto the Port of Houston Turning Basin. Thanks to the generous support of foundations, corporations, individuals and government agencies, BBP has implemented more than $200 million
in improvements for the redevelopment and stewardship of the waterfront – spearheading award-winning projects such as
Buffalo Bayou Park, protecting land for future parks and green space, constructing hike and bike trails, and operating comprehensive clean-up and maintenance programs. Buffalo Bayou Partnership also activates the waterway through pedestrian, boating and biking amenities; volunteer activities; permanent and temporary art installations; and wide-ranging tours and programs that engage tens of thousands of visitors each year.
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