Houston’s largest park could see potentially more than $200 million in renovations through a new master plan that includes a land bridge over Memorial Drive and an indoor swimming pool.
Previously serving as a campground for soldiers training for World War I, Memorial Park has been a central green space for the city of Houston since its inception in the 1920s, but extensive use and a major drought have left parts of it in need of repair.
The goal is to invest at least $150 million through the Uptown Houston Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which was recently restructured to include Memorial Park, as well as funds raised by the Memorial Park Conservancy and private donations, said Sarah Newbery, Uptown Houston’s project director for Memorial Park. Altogether, the money invested into the park will top $200 million over the next 20 years.
“Part of the expansion of the TIRZ to include this park was a bold and visionary step by the mayor and city council,” Newbery told the Houston Business Journal. “It’s a way to let money from this TIRZ be channeled into the park for improvements.”
The main focus of the master plan is to group different activities together while connecting the park’s 1,500 acres, Newbery told the HBJ. Additional improvements include adding roughly 30 percent more parking, more bike and running trails, a rugby pitch and additional green spaces.
Memorial Park opened a living bridge in 2009 to connect the north and south sides of the park, but the new plan would be much more extensive.
While this is a long-term plan to renovate and bolster the park, there are some immediate actions. Starting Jan. 26, the Seymour-Lieberman Trail, a 2.93 mile trail that sees nearly 3 million visitors annually, will undergo renovations. Other major updates to the park are expected to be completed by 2025, Newbery said, although a firm timeline has yet to be mapped out.
To get the master plan off the ground, the group needs to present the plans at one more community meeting, to be held March 9. From there, the plans would go to the city’s Quality of Life subcommittee, and then eventually the Houston City Council. A vote could come as soon as April, said Joe Turner, director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.
“This is one of the most important parks we have in the city, and we have a plan to build it,” said Turner. “We’re going to build the features we need in this park.”
Houston has been focused on creating and updating the city’s green spaces. Hermann Park opened the McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion on Oct. 18.
Jan 21, 2015, 7:53am CST by Joe Martin Reporter- Houston Business Journal