For years I have walked, driven, and ridden trains and buses past the so-called Midtown Superblock, the four-block long and one or two-block wide vacant swath bordered on the east and west by Main and Travis and the north and south by McGowen and Tuam.
And I have always had the same thought: Wouldn’t it be cool, I would dream, if they put something like a smaller version of Central Park there? And then cold reality: Who am I kidding? This is Houston.
And indeed this is still Houston, but at least I am not alone in dreaming of a little verdant refuge in Midtown. So too does David Crossley of local research institute Houston Tomorrow.
“This wouldn’t be a Disney World-type place like Discovery Green is,” says Crossley. “I’m thinking about something a little more urbane.”
Crossley envisions McGowen Green (as he has branded the proposed park) as a natural haven, complete with ponds and forested creeks, lined on the perimeter by New York-style street vendors. “Some of it would be real natural, like the Ramble in Central Park, almost like a bird sanctuary. And another part of it could be more like Bryant Park, where people just gather and hang out.”
All of this would rest atop an underground parking garage similar to the one at Discovery Green.
Crossley believes that the creation of McGowen Green would enhance and bring cohesion to Midtown’s scattershot development.
“Everywhere where [a park has been built], development starts and property values just go through the roof,” he says. “It really makes things happen. One of the ideas I had was to kind of concentrate the high-end development around that park instead of having it happen sporadically all around Midtown and ruin the property values everywhere by driving them so high that there is only one kind of development possible.”
Crossley believes McGowen Green would focus the ritzy stuff up there, while the funkier, more affordable stuff could come in around Wheeler Station and up to Ensemble.
What would it take to make McGowen Green a reality? “Well, there’s a couple of ways,” says Crossley. “The easiest would be if the City decides it wants to do it. I think that if the City announced it wanted to put a park there, then immediately the deals would start.”
Crossley can’t figure out why the project hasn’t been discussed more now that Discovery Green has been completed and proven a success. “Back three, four or five years ago, the mayor didn’t want to compete in the urban parks area with Discovery Green, and I can understand that. But he got what he wanted. Not only did he get the park, but he also got these huge developments, and I’m fine with all that. It’s working. So now that’s working, let’s go on to a different scale with the neighborhood so to speak and do the next great park.” – John Nova Lomax
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