Design thinking

Rehabilitated Houston park gains global recognition

Levy Park is one of only two parks in the world to receive the recent honor. Photo by Midway Companies

A recently redesigned Upper Kirby park has bloomed to international recognition, thanks to a high-profile award.

Levy Park has been selected as one of the winners of this year's prestigious Urban Land Institute's Urban Open Space Award. The award recognizes outstanding examples of successful large-scale and small-scale public spaces that have socially enriched and revitalized the economy of their surrounding communities, according to a statement.

The revitalized, six-acre Upper Kirby gem was recently named a winner at the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting in Boston. The only other park in the world to receive the Urban Space Award is Madrid Río Park in Madrid, Spain. The winners were selected from a collection of entries representing urban areas from across the globe.

"The jury found Levy Park to be a dynamic public-private partnership that was unique in how it was structured," says ULI trustee and jury chairman Stuart I. Ackerberg. The park is architecturally very strong and executed extremely well, and it provides appealing programming and amenities that benefit the entire Houston community."

While landscape architecture and urban design were factors in the judging process, the jury selected finalists based on a broader set of criteria, including overall project performance and how each impacted or revived the surrounding areas, according to the release. Levy Park's redesign was led by OJB Landscape Architecture.

Once home to an average of 50 visitors a week, Levy Park has evolved into a popular Inner Loop destination that welcomes an estimated 7,000 weekly visitors who pack its dog park, community events, farmers market, and public gardens. The center has become a favorite for families who flock to the children's park, which offers interactive sculptures, fountains, and a 150-foot-long treehouse nestled among massive live oaks.

The park has been lauded for fostering a sense of community through performances, workshops, movie nights, and exercise programs. Praise also flows for its gardens, which harness harvest and reuse stormwater.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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