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

 
 

"There's something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it." Photo via Getty Images

Houston's seen a growth in startup and venture investment — even amid the pandemic — and a group of Houston innovators sat down for a virtual event to discuss what's lead to this evolution.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted an installment of its Houston Industry Series focused on Digital Tech on Thursday, September 24. The panel of experts, moderated by Krisha Tracy of Google Cloud, discussed how they've observed the paradigm shift that's occurred in Houston over the past few years — and why.

Missed the discussion? Here are some significant overheard moments from the virtual event.

“I think there really is an interest for venture capital here, both locally and also welcoming it from outside of Houston. … There’s something magical happening in Houston, and [VCs] want a piece of it. I think that magical piece is a renewed interest in collaborating.”

Stephanie Campbell, managing director of Houston Angel Network and co-founder of The Artemis Fund. "I think a lot [of this progress] is due to the GHP, Houston Exponential, and the founding of the HX Venture Fund to bring those venture funds to Houston to say, 'what's happening here?'" Campbell adds, saying that this connectivity and collaboration that's happening in Houston VC is unique.

“I think there’s a misconception around all we do is oil and gas and life science in Houston, but when you think about what VC-backable companies look like, they’re tech, they’re B2B SaaS, they’re highly scalable, and they don’t tend to be capital-intensive types of things we see corporate venture backing.”

Campbell says, adding "the connectivity and the interest in VC is really taking off. It's an exciting time to be in Houston and Texas in general."

“Plug and Play’s ventures team is based in Silicon Valley and one thing they enjoy about meeting Houston-based founders is valuations tend to be more reasonable than in the Bay Area."

Payal Patel, director of Plug and Play Tech Center in Houston. "There are gems to be found," she adds.

“I don’t know what it is — if it’s something in the water or just Texans being very friendly, but the investors here share deal flow. It takes a village, and I think we all understand a rising tide lifts all boats."

Patel says on the collaborative nature of Houston. "It's really magical."

“What you’re witnessing is a city that has been waiting for industrial innovation to reach the point where it can be adopted at a really high scale, and that happened around 2017.”

Jon Nordby, managing director at MassChallenge Texas in Houston. Nordby adds that MassChallenge in Houston hasn't been keen on consumer tech, or the "grilled cheese delivery apps," as he describes. "We like companies that are in love with problems, not so much in love with solutions. … We build really meaningful tech."

“Over the last year or two, we’ve seen that sleeping giant get awoken. Open and external innovation is newly adopted by more legacy industries where it wasn’t before — and that’s just created a mountain of opportunities for startups and investors alike.”

Nordby says on the shift toward this meaningful, problem-solving technology, which Houston is full of, as he observes.

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