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Reinventing Jones Plaza

Big changes coming to downtown.

Jones Plaza, the often-empty, 1.5-acre public space at the heart of Houston’s Theater District, may finally become a true people magnet courtesy of the second face-lift in its 51-year history.

This time, Houston First Corporation, which operates the plaza for the city, hopes to create an event and dining area that reflects the artful vitality of the plaza’s prime location — a place that will be welcoming day and night for area employees as well as theater patrons and downtown residents.

[…]

Officials said the redevelopment will cost about $25 million, most of which will be raised privately. The Downtown Redevelopment Authority has contributed $5 million. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and his wife Whitney, along with the Astros Foundation, have contributed $1 million and will spearhead a capital campaign to raise the remaining funds.

With construction slated to begin next month, the project could be complete by late 2020.

Mayor Sylvester Turner called the plaza project a “game-changer” for downtown.

A major initiative of the Theater District Master Plan adopted in 2015, this redevelopment may finally solve a conundrum that has dogged the plaza from since it opened in 1967, in spite of its location next to the Alley Theatre and Jones Hall. Jones Plaza has long been like a forgotten ornament in the city’s jewel box because it was built above the district’s parking garage. Its stepped plaza design, necessary to accommodate the structure below, made access difficult for some. And it’s always been a hard place to beautify with shade trees and plants, since there’s not much soil to work with.

The site was best utilized from the late 1980s through the 1990s as the venue for Thursday night Party on the Plaza concerts that were not a particularly good fit for the surrounding fine arts venues. The Party on the Plaza brand has since been revived and relocated to Avenida Houston in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

I have some fond memories of those old Party on the Plaza events. Sure would be nice to find a purpose for Jones Plaza again. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

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3 Comments

  1. Bill Shirley says:

    I think the success of the Party on the Plaza there informed to the drastic and enclosed redesign (making it easier to control access to, and more enclosed as to block noise).

    Then being less open, it was less inviting: no one want’s to walk into a space you can’t see into.

    So, I consider this The Big Fix.

    The “Party on the Plaza” (currently on el Avenida) is likely a better location in noise terms, but less so for the type of function the PotP used to serve: starting at 6pm, it was an after-work destination for down town workers; having alternating bands with two sets each until 10pm, the late arrivals could catch both of them.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I never worked downtown, but back in the day, I enjoyed meeting up with friends at Party on the Plaza. Of course, decades ago, the traffic going INTO town wasn’t bad, and parking was plentiful after 5 pm.

    Now? I wouldn’t even consider going into downtown on a week night. Whatever it is, slugging through the traffic on I-45 going into downtown to get their just wouldn’t be worth it.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    *there