What it takes to revive a city park: Lessons from Houston’s Market Square

Market Square in Houston is among one of the most successful urban park renewal projects. Over the years, the Square transitioned from the city center’s historic district to a parking lot to a green area to art space, never having a real sense of purpose or welcoming. Yet in 2010, through collaboration and partnerships, the park was transformed. City government, local development groups, residents and property owners all came together and formed consensus on a plan for the park, designed to preserve its historical and artistic roots.

Project for Public Spaces was brought on board early in the process to lead the programming phase through a series of town hall meetings, focus groups and onsite evaluations. The City’s commitment to creating a focal point for the historic district and a sense of community by funding the entirety of the project is what allowed the project to move forward.

Today, a visitor can follow a black granite band through the park for a tour around the footprint of the old City Hall’s foundation. A rectangular lawn sits at the foundation’s center. The park’s cafe (selected through an RFP process) features outdoor seating and tables. Art and sculpture are abundant. And a crescent‐shaped dog run provides a welcoming place for dogs to play off-leash. The park is now brimming and bustling with friendly, safe, activity.

The key to the park’s event planning is partnerships. This enables the park to leverage events through collaborative planning, budgeting and co‐marketing. Events include a concert series, outdoor movies, dog training seminars, organized bike rides and historic and architectural tours. Special events are designed to drive traffic not only to the park, but also to the surrounding businesses.

Follow the transformation here.  Read the full case study here.