Sited between two major employment hubs, Downtown Houston and the Medical Center, the Midtown District experienced a renaissance of significant urban redevelopment and infill. This growth has increased demand for park space that is accessible to residents and provides a platform for year-round programming and events. The construction of Midtown Park fulfills a vision established 20 years ago by the Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) to create a premier park destination in the Midtown District of Houston, Texas. After extensive planning and land acquisition of an abandoned property in the heart of the city, the MRA and a local developer took control of one of the largest “superblocks” remaining in Midtown, a 6-acre tract of land with uninterrupted views to downtown Houston. This partnership has transformed this tract into a vibrant, urban park and multi-family development, one that not only benefits Midtown residents and business owners but also the larger community.
Challenged with creating the “premier urban park destination in Midtown”, the design team understood that this park needed to seamlessly integrate into the District and capitalize on the site’s geographic locale, its proximity to a light rail transit stop, surrounding developments totaling nearly 2,000 residential units, and the desire to place a 400 car parking garage below grade–setting a benchmark for developments like this to take place in the tight urban constraints of this site. One challenge that proved surmountable was creating an environment where trees and gardens could thrive in adequate soil volumes and uphold a living, sustainable park above an underground parking garage with an intricate system of draining capabilities, robust waterproofing, pumps, and a rainwater cistern. With all of this in mind, the design team successfully collaborated, designed, and implemented a park that not only serves the needs of the neighborhood and greater community but also bolstered the integrity of the District’s brand through programming and innovative design features.
The backbone of the site and key feature of the design was the integration of the “Bayou”, a constructed water channel and detention system, which mimics the natural bayous, swamps, bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands of Houston, all of which are integral pieces of the hydrology of the region. This system has proven to enhance economic and ecological resiliency by protecting against flooding while improving water quality and wildlife habitat for amphibians, insects and birds. During the recent extreme rainfall that occurred during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, the Bayou was able to absorb and detain all the water that the site received, preventing local flooding and damage to the park.
Working in close collaboration with local, world-renowned artists, Midtown Park hosts dynamic art pieces that aid in one of the major outcomes of the park – its outreach to the community and also, cementing the park as an icon for the District.
Location: Houston, Texas, USA
- Landscape Architecture – Design Workshop
- Alex Ramirez
- Alex Hill
- Sarah Delcambre
- Steven Spears*
- Philip Koske*
- Jason Ferster*
- Steve Moore*
- Sommer McNamara*
* no longer at Design Workshop
- Civil Engineer – Walter P Moore
- Structural Engineer – Walter P Moore
- Architect – Urban Architecture
- Water Features – Water Design, Inc.
- Sustainability – Regenerative Environmental Design
- General Contractor – Millis Development and Construction
- Construction Manager – IDS Engineering Group
- Owner – Midtown Redevelopment Authority
Image Credits: All provided images from Design Workshop, Inc.