The Houston Downtown Management District (Downtown District) and Central Houston, Inc. have released Plan Downtown: Converging Culture, Lifestyle & Commerce. This 20-year vision plan outlines recommendations for both short-term and long-term planning, development and design that will improve the visitor appeal, business climate, livability and connectivity within and around Downtown Houston leading up to the city’s bicentennial in 2036.
Plan Downtown is broken down into four pillars: Downtown is Houston’s greatest place to be; Downtown is the premier business and government location; Downtown is the standard for urban livability; and Downtown is the innovative leader in connectivity. The Plan considers these interdependent goals in over 150 individual suggestions, ranging from big-picture ideas to small, localized upgrades that would subtly improve the quality of urban life.
The Plan’s strategies include:
- Creating a Green Loop, a 5-mile transportation and recreation circuit that connects Downtown to adjacent neighborhoods.
- Enhancing walkability of Downtown through the development of Downtown Design Guidelines and the addition of new destinations.
- Establishing an Innovation District as the center for technology and entrepreneurship in the Houston region by strengthening connections between businesses/funders and entrepreneurs and pursuing partnerships with area universities.
- Building 12,000 additional Downtown residential units to support population growth from 7,500 to 30,000 over the next 20 years, and enhance the area amenities available to current and future residents.
- Adapting to autonomous vehicles by positioning Downtown to benefit from new technologies.
With funding from the Downtown District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority and Houston First Corporation, Asakura Robinson led the Plan Downtown effort with consultants Sasaki, Traffic Engineers, Inc. (TEI) and HR&A Advisors. In addition to a core leadership team that included representatives from the City of Houston, Harris County, Central Houston, Downtown District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority / TIRZ No. 3, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Theater District Houston, along with representatives from East Downtown, Greater East End, Greater Northside and Midtown Management Districts, the consultants tapped a larger 166- member steering committee of elected officials, community leaders and area residents to provide input to frame plan recommendations.
Project representatives engaged stakeholders in a series of topic-focused meetings, public workshops, online surveys and text campaigns. Eighteen months of public input and expert analysis led to a detailed and adaptable roadmap that identifies stakeholders’ areas of responsibility, designates a phasing strategy and pinpoints funding opportunities for projects and concepts. Findings relate to the core principals of Plan Houston, the city’s first General Plan, adopted by Houston City Council in the fall of 2015.