A $55 million upgrade to parkland along Buffalo Bayou is set to add performance venues, improve recreational areas and revitalize downtown-area green space that officials hope will become a magnet and refuge similar to New York’s Central Park.
Houston City Council on Wednesday approved an operating agreement paving the way for construction, including a major restructuring of Buffalo Bayou and restoration of its ecosystems. The Harris County Commissioners Court will take up a similar agreement Tuesday.
The plan’s cost will be covered by $50 million in donations, including $30 million from The Kinder Foundation, with construction expected to run from June 2012 through 2015. The city will contribute $2 million annually to maintain and operate the upgraded park, and the Harris County Flood Control District will pitch in $5 million to assist with changes to the waterway. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership still is raising private funds for the project.
The restructuring effort will focus on a 158-acre, 2.3-mile stretch of the bayou between Shepherd and Sabine, with an emphasis on “resculpting” the bayou channel to restore a more natural meandering path that was scraped away during a 1950s flood control project, said Guy Hagstette, a consultant for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which developed the plan.
The city’s press release is here, and you can learn all you want to know about the project at the Buffalo Bayou Partnership webpage. Keep in mind that the San Antonio Riverwalk started out as a flood control project, and transformed over time into a star attraction and a reason for people to visit the city. Buffalo Bayou already has some nice amenities, and what’s being planned now will really make it something. Who knows what it could be in once this is done?