- The Houston Downtown Management District (or "Downtown District") and Central Houston, Inc. recently unveiled a 20-year plan to redevelop the city's downtown area and "improve the visitor appeal, business climate, livability and connectivity," according to Downtown District.
- "Plan Downtown" highlights multiple short- and long-term strategies for redevelopment, including creating a five-mile Green Loop transit circuit; enhancing walkability; establishing an "Innovation District" to act as the city center for tech and entrepreneurship; building 12,000 new residential units and adopting autonomous vehicles.
- The plan — which will lead up to the city's bicentennial in 2036 — is the product of an 18-month process led by partner organizations and leaders from the city, county and community levels.
Houston is no stranger to change. According to the plan, more than $6 billion has been invested in urban development across Houston's downtown area since 2004.
However that investment of time and money just laid the groundwork for this new era of smart, citizen-first city design. To meet the needs of the entire city, planners tapped into insights from hundreds of stakeholders including the Downtown Redevelopment Authority / TIRZ No. 3, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Theater District Houston, and representatives from East Downtown, Greater East End, Greater Northside and Midtown Management District.
Some of the most significant elements to this plan are its flood resiliency strategies — many of which were likely motivated by Hurricane Harvey, which caused nearly $200 billion worth of damage. Though Houston was originally criticized for not being aptly prepared for the floods, this new plan outlines elevated building systems and ground floor design requirements, detention/retention strategies and "flood-readiness" of government facilities. Other cities can also look at this plan as a resource when developing flood resilience strategies.
As the Houston Chronicle wrote in an op-ed, much of Plan Downtown is "quite the vision — easy to dismiss as impossible in our sprawling city. But you only have to look back a decade to see how quickly things can change in downtown."
And the Chronicle is right — change can happen quickly. However, for a plan of this magnitude to roll out by its bicentennial, action needs to be immediate, consistent and encounter few hiccups or distractions.