A 12-acre park in the heart of downtown Houston, Discovery Green has nearly everything an urban resident could ask for. Adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the beautiful park features open spaces for events, a landscaped jogging trail, a picnic area, public art, a small lake for kayaking and ice skating, a playground, various gardens and fountains, restaurants, a putting green, a shuffleboard court and a seamlessly integrated parking garage, among other features.
Here are a few things to know about Discovery Green.
1. It's been a good investment.
With its landscape designed by leading landscape architectural firm Hargreaves Associates in San Franscisco, the park helped revitalize downtown Houston. While the total cost for land aquisition, development and landscaping reached $125 million, it has lead to $625 million in downtown developments, including a high-end residential tower, the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Hess Tower office development. There's another $1 billion in private hotel, office and housing projects still coming down the pipeline, according to the Discovery Green Conservancy. Not to mention, it's greatly increased the popularity of the George R. Brown Convention Center, attracting large businesses and industries to hold their events in Houston.
"The park has catalyzed development of the east side of downtown, as one surface parkinglot after another has been converted into corporate, residential and entertainment space," wrote Ann Duncan, the park's Chairman of the Board, and Barry Mandel, its president and director, in a letter to the public commemorating the park's 5th anniversary, in 2013.
2. It's well-loved.
Before the park opened to the public in 2008, stakeholders believed about 500,000 people would visit the park each year — but the actual numbers have consistently more than doubled that projection. Nowadays, the park hosts more than 600 events each year; the events alone attract an estimated 1.2 million people annually. Events include everything from Zumba classes and parkour training to poetry slams, festivals, flea markets, language classes, movie nights, concerts and city-wide holiday celebrations. "Discovery Green felt like a home away from home to so many people as soon as it was opened," wrote Duncan and Mandel.
3. It was created through a public-private partnership.
Before it was a park, Discovery Green was home to two large, unsightly parking garages and a small green space. Residents considered it an "undeveloped, concrete eyesore." In 2002, the city aquired part of the land, and a group of philanthropists approached the city's mayor about a long-term vision of turning the space into a urban park capable of redefining the city's downtown landscape. By 2004, the city had purchased the rest of the land needed and created the Discovery Green Conservancy non-profit to operate and maintain the park. One of the Conservancy's first jobs was to get public input on the project, an extensive process that included a series of public meetings and focus groups. Today, the park is funded through donations from foundations, companies and individuals, as well as proceeds from revenue-generating events and venues.
4. The park includes several public art installations
Public art is an important component of Discovery Green, helping shape visitor's interactions and experiences with the park. While Discovery Green does have seasonal and visiting installations, there are several long-term, permanent pieces the park is most known for.
5. Discovery Green is Green
When they first began planning Discovery Green, stakeholders made the decision to follow environmental best practices for construction, sustainability, water efficiency, energy conversation, material procurement, and more. The park is powered by 100 percent clean and renewable energy — including wind and solar — and uses recycled groundwater to fill its lake. The park's innovations and attention to environmental stewardship earned it a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.