Houston: Buffalo Bayou Partnership Reveals Plan for More Revitalization
Featured photo (above): The nonprofit Buffalo Bayou Partnership is launching a new revitalization effort, this one aimed at enhancing recreation and open spaces and repurposing former industrial sites along the bayou’s eastern part. Image: Buffalo Bayou Partnership
By Edmond Ortiz
Houston (Harris County)—Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP), the nonprofit that has been spearheading a massive revamp of Buffalo Bayou Park, has unveiled plans to transform a 4 -mile stretch of the bayou in a project that could spur major urban revival in the center of town.
Officials from the partnership gathered with city and civic leaders and other residents Oct. 26 to celebrate a presentation of the Buffalo Bayou East master plan.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership has been working with the city and other authorities and the private sector to develop and enhance green space west of downtown.
But the nonprofit has spent the last 15 years raising or leveraging more than $144 million to acquire a total of 70 acres of spaces along the eastern part of the bayou to advance the next phase of waterfront redevelopment.
The 20-year Buffalo Bayou East master plan calls for 40 miles of new and upgraded trails and bike paths, seven new boat landings, seven new pedestrian bridges, and 200 acres of parks and public spaces between U.S. Highway 59 and the Port of Houston turning basin. Because the bayou here is wider and more like a river, the partnership sees the area as a prime spot for revitalization.
Downtown Gateway and Central Hub are two “key nodes” in the Buffalo Bayou East master plan. Image: Buffalo Bayou Partnership
The plan will also involve repurposing some abandoned structures and infrastructure, such as concrete silos, a barge dock, and a city sewage treatment facility.
Aside from repurposing decommissioned infrastructure of the East Sector’s industrial past and enhancing open space and recreation in the area, project partners want to: preserve culture and traditions along Buffalo Bayou East, extend the neighborhood fabric to the bayou, create a safe, resilient waterfront, develop an economically integrated, Bayou-facing community, and leverage BBP-owned and publicly held properties for future open space development.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership has had help from a number of consultants in assembling the plan, including Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, a New York City-based landscape architecture firm; Utile, an urban design and architecture firm in Boston, and HR&A Advisors, a real estate and economic development consulting firm with offices in Dallas and other cities.
“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,” Chris Matthews, lead designer for the plan, said in a press release.
“I applaud Buffalo Bayou Partnership for its commitment to seeing these industrial relics remain and incorporated into the bayou’s landscape.”
The master plan is organized into four “key nodes,” according to the planning documents: Downtown Gateway, Central Hub, Industrial District and Eastern Terminus.
New open spaces and connections near the northeastern corner of downtown will mark the Downtown Gateway, a bridge of sorts between Buffalo Bayou East and the current redevelopment happening farther west.
Downtown Gateway improvements regarding flood mitigation and affected state roadways will need collaboration between BBP and various public agencies.
Eastern Terminus and Industrial District are two “key nodes” in the Buffalo Bayou East renovation project. Image: Buffalo Bayou Partnership
The Central Hub will feature an expanded Tony Marron Park, enhanced with new and upgraded facilities, a restored Japhet Creek, and new residential development, all to highlight a wider range of recreational and cultural opportunities.
Marron Park will be the gathering place for nearby Fifth Ward and Greater East End residents, and it will be the primary green space destination for Buffalo Bayou East.
The planned enhancements here would include new entry gardens connecting to North York Street, improved habitats and sports fields, a new playground, new boathouse, picnic lawn, and picnic pavilions to support food trucks and community activities.
The aforementioned repurposed industrial relics will be hallmarks of the Industrial District, as such sites could be turned into open spaces and cultural attractions.
The partnership sees the Cistern, in Buffalo Bayou Park, as inspiration.
The cistern is Houston’s abandoned former underground water reservoir that was saved from demolition and has become a major tourist attraction.
The former Lockwood Water Treatment Works would be turned into water gardens, complete with botanical displays and experimental stormwater cleansing basins, according to the master plan.
BPP is also looking at converting a site it owns along Navigation Boulevard, in the Turkey Bend area, into a neighborhood arts and event center, perhaps even incubator space for neighborhood businesses.
The Eastern Terminus will contain new links between undeveloped green space and existing parks to present a more attractive vision of the Port of Houston, especially for neighborhood residents. The partnership envisions reusing the port’s Dredged Material Placement Areas (DAMP) site as a regional sports park.
Buffalo Bayou East master plan proposes turning the Turkey Bend wharf into a gathering space complete with food truck parking space, children’s activities, and spots for visitors to go kayaking and boating. Image: Utile
Check this link for more about the Buffalo Bayou East master plan.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership President Anne Olson said the following in the news release: “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.”
City and business leaders have lauded the ongoing Buffalo Bayou Park revival, saying it’s been a major factor behind the residential and commercial growth along the Allen Parkway corridor. Also, East River, a multi-phase, mixed-use redevelopment of 150 acres of waterfront east of downtown is getting underway.
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.