Discovery Green celebrates 10 years

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Early on a weekday morning, Discovery Green is quiet.

It never stays that way for long, thanks to park visitors like Richard Lozano, his wife, Pat, and granddaughter Stella. The attraction to this spot is simple.

"Just open space, just some place where you can see trees, enjoy fresh air, and meet people that also enjoy that," said Lozano.

Years ago, the land was a parking lot set for development, save the inspiration of a handful of Houston philanthropists led by the late Maconda Brown O'Connor, daughter of George R. Brown.

In partnership with then-Mayor Bill White, they set out on a journey which would change downtown for future generations.

"It seemed for a lot of people to be like a pipe dream," recalls Park Director Barry Mandel. "It was like Houstonians didn't recreate downtown at the time."

He shared how the 100-year-old oaks served as the inspiration for the park.

"The top of the Grove Restaurant is in the midst of the tree canopy, and so it feels like you're in a tree house."

It cost $125 million to build Discovery Green, but what a return on that investment!

"It's been about $1.4 billion of development, not just in downtown, but in the area right around Discovery Green since it opened 10 years ago," said Boby Eury, Executive Director of the Downtown Management District. "That in itself is amazingly significant."

There is also the immeasurable impact on the psyche of a city in need of a place to congregate for big events like the Super Bowl. A park which expected a half a million visitors a year when it opened, now welcomes 1.2 million annually.
Part of the popularity is the public art.

"Here they're in a very comfortable, very familiar environment. It's accessible to them. It's free," said Public Art Chair, Judy Nyquist.

Among the park patron favorites is Syncronicity of Color, which is really a simple door to the parking garage below.

Lozano, who has lived in Houston for decades, still can't believe what a gem Discovery Green has become for the city.

"It's an amazing transformation, and I think it's revitalized downtown Houston and has made it a place to come."

Mandel says there are plans to rebuild the children's play area, re-light the park to make sure it remains safe for evening visitors and nearby residents, and raise money to sustain the public art program. In the meantime, he says it's time to celebrate 10 years of Discovery Green.
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