Arup’s combination of urban planning and performing arts consulting proved successful with Houston First and City of Houston stakeholders.
The Houston Theater District Masterplan has been endorsed by Houston First Corporation, a local government organisation whose mission is to enhance the quality of life in Houston and to advance the city’s economic prosperity and development. The masterplan lays out a range of near- and long-term improvements for the District’s public spaces that will provide an exciting and distinct identity for the 17-block Theater District.
Arup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced the Houston Theater District Masterplan has been endorsed by Houston First Corporation, a local government organization whose mission is to enhance Houstonians’ quality of life and to advance the city’s economic prosperity and development. The masterplan lays out a range of near- and long-term improvements for the District’s public spaces that will provide an exciting and distinct identity for the 17-block Theater District. The first project to commence from this plan will likely be the redevelopment of Jones Plaza at the center of the District. Arup has begun the schematic design for Jones Plaza, and Houston First expects to break ground in February 2017.
As prime consultant, Arup provided urban planning and performing arts consulting to devise the masterplan, as well as comprehensive integrated planning services including urban design, lighting design, wayfinding, civil engineering and cost estimation. The full vision of the masterplan, which is expected to be realized by 2025, is to create an active streetlife and street vibrancy tied to existing and successful performing arts venues that include opera, theater, symphony, and ballet, among others.
The masterplan strategy outlines the path towards a revitalized Theater District that offers an active urban street life, unified branding, and increased opportunities for investment. Three major components of the plan include Center Stage, which transforms Jones Plaza for public enjoyment and events; Bagby Street, which will become a pedestrian-oriented thoroughfare flanked by new high-rise and mixed-use developments; and Livable Streets, which will reimagine the public spaces into a fun, inviting, and safe public gathering place. The redevelopment of Bayou Place is a key component encompassing all three activity areas.
The desire to create a unique identity for the Theatre District was a key driver of this plan. While a hub for high quality performing arts events in Texas and the Southwest region and home to 13,000 seats, the second largest density in the county (behind New York City), Houston’s Theatre District has the potential to become an even more attractive and lively destination in a similar way to its peers in London, New York, Chicago and Montreal. Through the masterplan, expressions of artistic activity will be complemented by interventions and innovations adding interactivity, connectivity, energy and life into the District. The end result will be a creative, thriving central location where Houstonians from all walks of life will come to enjoy and engage in creative collaboration.
“The goal of this master plan has always been to create a vibrant street life around the theater venues. Previously, visitors tended to drive in, attend the theater, and leave the city center to pursue other activities,” said Steve Done, principal in Arup’s Houston office and project director for the master plan. “Our plan will encourage patrons to stay in the District, whether to dine, gather, or shop, in order to infuse the district with vitality, economic development, and a sense of community.”
Potential beneficial outcomes of the plan include increased economic development through the introduction of new businesses, restaurants, and retail establishments, as well as the development of residential properties. Currently, 2,700 units of downtown housing are planned adjacent to the District.
Arup’s current arts and culture work in Texas includes projects at the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth; the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth; the San Antonio Museum of Art; and the repository for numerous works by artist Ellsworth Kelly at the University of Texas, Austin. It is also currently involved with the master planning and implementation of the Uptown Houston Street Improvement Project on the city’s famous Post Oak Boulevard.