Midtown Superblock tapped as site of inner city park

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by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 27 at 7:40 PM

HOUSTON—An empty lot sitting vacant in Houston’s hot midtown area, a piece of undeveloped property so large it’s called the “Superblock,” is about to become the site of a new inner city park.

The land stretching across three city blocks sits adjacent to Main Street and the McGowen station of the Metro rail line.  Diners sitting at the bar in Reef, a popular midtown restaurant, can see the lot covered with grass and weeds directly across Travis Street.  A lot of people who live in Midtown walk past it every day.

“Actually, we were just talking about it yesterday, how it would be really nice if they put a park there,” said Katie Cox, a Midtown resident.

That’s precisely what the Midtown Redevelopment Authority and Camden Development Inc. plan for about half of the 3.5 acre site.  Also on the drawing board are sites for two restaurants and a residential development, as well as an underground parking garage for about 140 vehicles.  An artist rendering shows what looks like a small scale Discovery Green, with children playing in a wading pool.

The project is expected to cost roughly $7,000,000, said Matt Thibodeaux, the executive director of the authority, which is a non-profit local government corporation financed with Midtown property tax revenues.  Construction is expected to begin next spring, Thibodeaux said, and the park should be open in 2014.

The land has sat vacant for more than a decade, making it a curious anomaly in a fast developing neighborhood that’s almost literally in the shadow of downtown Houston skyscrapers.  Employees of nearby businesses now park their cars on the grassy field, even though posted signs warn drivers their cars might be towed away.  And although it’s mowed and maintained, litterers have tossed trash onto the land.

“It’s a little uneasy on the eyes right now,” said Devon Little, who lives near the property.

The owners of Reef, across the street from the now vacant land, are anxious to see the development and welcome the customers it will bring.

“You’re going to have a true walk-in customer, which in Houston is a very rare thing,” said Bryan Caswell, co-owner of Reef.  “Most people are always driving, so you’re going to have this group of folks that are right there come in anytime.  They just walk across the street.”

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