New life for old park?

September 28, 2009 4:43:44 PM PDT
It was one of the first public squares set aside by the Allen brothers. Now it's going to get a much needed facelift. Eyewitness News has learned about plans to renovate Market Square Park.The plans have been in the works for years. Will it be enough to bring people back to downtown Houston? Some business owners say it's just too late.

Market Square Park is bordered by Travis, Milam, Congress and Preston. It was originally the center of Houston's business district. We got a look at the plans to renovate the space. They include a dog park and even an art walk.

With the opening of Discovery Green and the Houston Pavilions, the south part of downtown Houston has been the center of attention. But business owners in the oldest part of the city were feeling a bit left out. They are hoping that's about to change.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, there's a bit of tranquility at Market Square. But for some, perhaps it's too tranquil.

"It's not really useful. There's nothing really to do there," said Market Square employee Jessica Garza. "It's kind of like boring space."

Garza works at a sandwich shop next to the square. Its lack of usefulness has proved frustrating for businesses trying to survive in Houston's historic district.

"I don't really know what I would want anymore," said Market Square business owner Mike Shapiro. "Something that would bring people down here, but I don't think anything is going to bring them down here, not a park."

Long time business owner Shapiro may be skeptical, but the Downtown District is about to completely overhaul Market Square. In artistic renderings, the new design would include a food kiosk, art walks and even a dog park, all designed to attract more residents and boost business.

"We don't believe it's too little too late," insisted Downtown District spokesperson Bob Eury. "We believe it's going to be a very significant addition to the historic district."

The reconstruction of the park is expected to take about six months. Businesses surrounding Market Square are hoping for a big improvement after it's completed.

Garza said, "Actually, I think it's going to be great. Then people can come in, if it's too crowded in here, they can take it to go, eat at the park."

Construction is scheduled to start before Thanksgiving. For those who already utilize the historic park, re-opening day can't come soon enough.

Downtown resident Patrick Brown said, "If this area wasn't available to take Maddie out, I would have to walk a very long distance to find some grass where she can be a dog for a little bit."

The completion date for the park is around next year's Memorial Day holiday. The estimated cost for the park is $3 million. It will be paid for by using tax increment reinvestment zone funds, not personal property taxes.

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