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

 
 

SeekerPitch exists to update the job hiring process in a way that benefits both the job seekers and recruiters. Photo via Getty Images

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."

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