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ArchitecturalPRGirl

Be a part of the Market Square redevelopment

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A "sylvan oasis." My, my. I wish I could write that way.

But anyway, I'm curious as to what is driving this. Is there a perception that there is a problem with the design of Market Square? I always thought it was OK, all things considered. Probably the best things you could do for it would be to redevelop the surface lot on the south side and get rid of the big parking garage on the west side. The focus shouldn't be on the square as much as the buildings around it. Too bad some of the city's oldest structures around it have been torn down.

Also, what happens at a "Place Making Workshop"?

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A "sylvan oasis." My, my. I wish I could write that way.

But anyway, I'm curious as to what is driving this. Is there a perception that there is a problem with the design of Market Square? I always thought it was OK, all things considered. Probably the best things you could do for it would be to redevelop the surface lot on the south side and get rid of the big parking garage on the west side. The focus shouldn't be on the square as much as the buildings around it. Too bad some of the city's oldest structures around it have been torn down.

Also, what happens at a "Place Making Workshop"?

this is one of those wish list type things like asking that CVS put apartments over their store in midtown.

i agree with your comments sub.

EDIT: just sent this to a merchant and the response was that the owner should go "just to make sure Carol doesn't f-it up!"

Edited by musicman

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Probably the best things you could do for it would be to redevelop the surface lot on the south side and get rid of the big parking garage on the west side. The focus shouldn't be on the square as much as the buildings around it.

Can't put the cart before the horse... ;)

Also, what happens at a "Place Making Workshop"?

Depends on who's running it. Either 1) City officials attempt to persuade the public that they have a say over something that is completely beyond their control, or 2) City officials tell you what they want to do, provide a few moments for you to ask questions for which there are no clear answers, and then you go home.

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Depends on who's running it. Either 1) City officials attempt to persuade the public that they have a say over something that is completely beyond their control, or 2) City officials tell you what they want to do, provide a few moments for you to ask questions for which there are no clear answers, and then you go home.

LOL so true.

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First off, let me say that the parking lot south of Market Square Park needs to go immediately! It is the absolute worst spot a parking lot could be located in this city to date. That parking lot single-handedly destroys any urban ambience this park has tried to create at all....

So with that in mind, here's my idea......

Market Square Park needs to expand to the parking lot directly south of the park in an effort to make it more urban in a Central Park-type way with development bordering all sides of the park. Close down the section of Preston St that would run directly through the middle of this expanded park, so the park will run complete and uninterrupted by traffic. Then in the middle of the now expanded park, add a water feature centering around a sculpture (maybe move the Beatles sculpture to this site)....basically create a more memoriable and dramatic, stand-out signature for the park, in the heart of the park. I believe some for of dramaic signature might serve as an attaction to pull in visitors, unlike the Points of View stature the current park has. From there, add more decorative lighting for enhancement and night-time safety. Finally, add more park benches & chess tables to complement the additional green space added via expansion, thus offering more places where workers in nearby office towers or residents in nearby lofts can come to kill time in the peaceful surroundings of this true urban park, that is conveniently located nearby.

Edited by tigereye

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So with that in mind, here's my idea......

Market Square Park needs to expand to the parking lot directly south of the park in an effort to make it more urban in a Central Park-type way with development bordering all sides of the park. Close down the section of Preston St that would run directly through the middle of this expanded park, so the park will run complete and uninterrupted by traffic. Then in the middle of the now expanded park, add a water feature centering around a sculpture (maybe move the Beatles sculpture to this site)....basically create a more memoriable and dramatic, stand-out signature for the park, in the heart of the park. I believe some for of dramaic signature might serve as an attaction to pull in visitors, unlike the Points of View stature the current park has. From there, add more decorative lighting for enhancement and night-time safety. Finally, add more park benches & chess tables to complement the additional green space added via expansion, thus offering more places where workers in nearby office towers or residents in nearby lofts can come to kill time in the peaceful surroundings of this true urban park, that is conveniently located nearby.

How can it expand to encompass the lot AND have development bordering all sides? unless you want to look at the back of the chronicle on one block and a parking garage on another, taking over the lot wouldn't be as dramatic as you envision.

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Close down the section of Preston St that would run directly through the middle of this expanded park, so the park will run complete and uninterrupted by traffic.

You've never watched the traffic on Preston at 8 in the morning have you?

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You've never watched the traffic on Preston at 8 in the morning have you?

Or the street before it, Prairie, trying to get on Memorial at 5. It's a cluster f#$%. Closing any of these streets would be a disaster.

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The problems with the current park configuration is that it is uninviting. It is especially uninviting at night, and borders on scary. The lawns slope upward, so that you get a sense that you are walking into a secluded area where you can't be seen from the outside , a place where once you get in, you feel like you are trapped, again, especially at night. I think the slopes should go away. That is the first thing to make it less scary. The other thing is that it feels like a maze, that is, the way you have no choice but to go diagonal to get anywhere inside it, which I should add, there is not much of "anywhere" to actually go too. The whole configuration just has a very inconvenient way about it. Compare this to something like Bryant Park in NYC. There is lush green all around the perimeter, with the inside of the perimeter lined with benches and areas to sit in. There are outdoor tables and such, and an openess that invites such that you dont feel closed in. It is almost more of a plaza, except there is green all around you. Maybe something like Bryant Park would be better for our Market Square.

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an interesting read from 1986:

http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=1986_431385

WHAT to do with Market Square?

The question has dogged city planners for years, and today the future of that square in the north end of the downtown business district looks quite inviting, thanks to the cooperative efforts of planners, architects, political bodies, and most especially to five artists whose contributions have been orchestrated by DiverseWorks.

[...]

Five artists will provide the ornamental and entertainment aspects of Market Square. Doug Hollis of Houston and Richard Turner of Los Angeles are a team responsible for embedding relics of the past - artifacts and tiled photos of razed area buildings - in the sidewalks. Photographer Paul Hester has been commissioned to choose 20 archival photos and produce 20 new ones; and Malou Flato of Austin will construct four benches for the outer rim of the park, covered by hand-painted tiles. At the center James Surls' tall botanical structure of wood, to be embedded in concrete and assembled with the help of a crane, will be the plaza's center focus.

There is a freshness and bit of zaniness, together with a touch of nostalgia, in this plan - an honest linking of past and present in a way that should be refreshing at all seasons.

Edited by sevfiv

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The problems with the current park configuration is that it is uninviting. It is especially uninviting at night, and borders on scary. The lawns slope upward, so that you get a sense that you are walking into a secluded area where you can't be seen from the outside , a place where once you get in, you feel like you are trapped, again, especially at night. I think the slopes should go away.

2112, you've made the same comment as one of the merchants. evidently one patron was mugged in the sunken area a few yrs back. currently, i only walk around the park as it has become a doggie potty. many lame owners don't pick their pets' crap up.

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The only times I see market square are during the weekends/after 5 and of course, nobody is there. Do people use the "park" or "square" or whatever on weekdays? Do people eat lunch there and stuff? Or does it just sit empty most of the time?

I am really hoping that the new downtown park becomes a park that people actually use - like Hermann Park.

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I found this from December '08:

PPS found, unsurprisingly, that people stayed away due to the lack of other people using the space. PPS's suggestions for livening up the park included a food stand with lots of seating, a playground, and temporary events: fitness classes, live music and a farmers market.

The #1 PPS recommendation for making the space active was a dog run. The amenity would attract people at all times of day, as well as provide a place where dog owners could meet their neighbors and form community connections.

The city is now working towards implementing these suggestions, and hope to begin construction in the summer of 2009.

http://blog.pps.org/market-square-readying...revitalization/

also...

I thought this was an interesting take:

Houston is a city where every public space is seen as a design statement not a place for people. Hence, there are no great public spaces in Houston, and there never will be until city leaders get over the idea of

Edited by lockmat

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Ugh dog run.

I can't speak for anywhere else but dogs are a big deal in this city. We are one of a small minority of households on our block that doesn't have at least one. Their owners invest a lot of time in them, and like talking to other dog owners about dog stuff so I can understand catering to them. As for Market Square I've always found it very uninspiring and as other posters have pointed out the elevated lawns and sunken walkways detract from the continuity of the space, making it seem smaller and generally giving it a very dated 70s-ish feel. From a practical point of view I'd be reticent to let a toddler run around on the grass lest they go sailing off one of those ledges. And then there are the bums but given the climate they will always be a fact of life here. When I was young free and single I used to enjoy hanging out in the bars on the periphery so I'm sure it would be nice to sit outside one of those and look out on a thoughtfully updated urban space.

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I can't speak for anywhere else but dogs are a big deal in this city. We are one of a small minority of households on our block that doesn't have at least one. Their owners invest a lot of time in them, and like talking to other dog owners about dog stuff so I can understand catering to them. As for Market Square I've always found it very uninspiring and as other posters have pointed out the elevated lawns and sunken walkways detract from the continuity of the space, making it seem smaller and generally giving it a very dated 70s-ish feel. From a practical point of view I'd be reticent to let a toddler run around on the grass lest they go sailing off one of those ledges. And then there are the bums but given the climate they will always be a fact of life here. When I was young free and single I used to enjoy hanging out in the bars on the periphery so I'm sure it would be nice to sit outside one of those and look out on a thoughtfully updated urban space.

However I am selfish and want things that benefit me, not others.

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I'm sure this will make for a great public restroom for all. :D

Just kidding, but I'm not really sure any preconceived "design" is a good idea. The grade dynamics of it's current design does isolate the epicenter of the park and the sculpture's choice of materials reinforces a stark character. I'd be fine with the simplicity of a level grading and a manicured lawn of Hank Hill's criteria.

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Would it be possible for the city to acquire weekend rights to part of the parking lot? I assume that these lots make most of their money during the weekdays. If the city bought weekend rights to the 1/3 of the parking lot closest to the park, they could make some simple improvements (like brick paving and a few trees), and use this area for weekend events such as a farmer's market or occasional festivals. Preston could be temporarily closed during these weekend events and possibly even be used as a location for marker/festival booths.

The rest of the parking lot would still be parking, and it might even make more money when there were weekend events at the park. The whole lot would still be used for parking during weekdays.

One flaw with this is that I assume that most downtown parking lot owners would sell their lots immediately if a buyer offered the right price. I don't know how they would arrange a lease to the city while still maintaining this sales flexibility. Of course, with the current market, they might take a little short-term lease money from the city rather than holding out for a big sale.

This also would involve the city either spending money or figuring out some other way to fund the project. Does anyone know the owner of the parking lot? Is there any chance that something like this (with pretty minimal up-front costs) could be financed privately? The city could arrange to close the street during events, provide security, and maybe accept some liability, and the owner would organize events that allow him to get some return on any improvements or time invested.

Just a thought.

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If I'm thinking of the right place, one of the unique aspects of this space, to me, is the integration of the floors of whatever buildings used to sit there in the walkway.

I don't particularly care how this space is updated, but I hope that they can retain this unique feature of this greenspace!

Edited by samagon

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It needs tables under the trees. People use the pocket park at Capitol and Milam like crazy, especially for lunch. They also use the sitting area in front of Jones Hall. For some reason, Jones Plaza and Market Square are underutilized. I think providing a place for someone to eat their lunch would greatly increase its usage.

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It needs tables under the trees. People use the pocket park at Capitol and Milam like crazy, especially for lunch. They also use the sitting area in front of Jones Hall. For some reason, Jones Plaza and Market Square are underutilized. I think providing a place for someone to eat their lunch would greatly increase its usage.

this one?

http://www.houstonarchitecture.info/Buildi...nChase_Park.php

That would be sort of neat for future buildings to include small parks like this, too.

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This also would involve the city either spending money or figuring out some other way to fund the project.

with the city having to float >20million in bonds to meet their current retirement obligations, not sure a proposal such as yours would be achievable currently. there are still proposals out there to start charging for parking on sunday downtown according to a couple of business owners i know.

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this one?

http://www.houstonarchitecture.info/Buildi...nChase_Park.php

That would be sort of neat for future buildings to include small parks like this, too.

That's it. The Brown Bag Deli is adjacent, so you can grab a sandwich and then grab an outside table. I did it just last week.

Music, this city has so may generous endowments, etc. I'm sure we could manage to drum up some private contributors for Market Square. I mean really, it's the centerpiece of old Houston.

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with the city having to float >20million in bonds to meet their current retirement obligations, not sure a proposal such as yours would be achievable currently. there are still proposals out there to start charging for parking on sunday downtown according to a couple of business owners i know.

Why don't they charge for parking on Sundays? I mean they already do every other day of the week.

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Why don't they charge for parking on Sundays? I mean they already do every other day of the week.

most business owners were adamantly against metered parking, esp on slower periods like weekend days. just yet another reason not to go downtown.

there was also talk in the last 6 months or so to lengthen period til later in the evening weekdays to which many businesses owners said no esp because of the two hr limit implemented in the last yr or so. it makes it difficult for people to have dinner and some drinks somewhere without having to worry about moving your car.

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