Here’s the feel-good Houston bayou hit of the season: a dreamy, 11-minute-long video talking up a $5.4 billion plan (that’s the proposed budget, anyway) to build a new interconnected system of parks and trails out of “derelict” properties along Houston’s extensive network of bayous. The goals: better air and water quality, reduced flooding, and economic development.
Properties not directly located along bayous would also be included. In all, the plan calls for acquiring 3,800 acres of land and turning 3,200 acres of them into parks and stormwater detention sites. The remainder would be “set aside” for future redevelopment. Continuous greenbelts would be established along 10 major Houston bayous, connecting parks and community gathering places. In all: 300 miles of trails and 1,600 acres of linear greenway space.
But that’s just for Houston.
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The proposal is part of a “Redfields to Greenfields” research project funded by New York hedge fund manager Michael Messner’s Speedwell Foundation — for a national economic stimulus program that would turn “in-the-red” properties in major urban areas into job-creating, real-estate-value-enhancing parks (and gather up raw land for future development). Financing for the economic-recovery proposal would come from banks, but would be made possible by a $200 billion “land bank” and parkland acquisition fund established and administered by the U.S. Treasury Dept., the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve.
The above video comes from a “second tier” of city studies; A glossy report (PDF) laying out how Houston could take advantage of such a program was produced last year. It includes this map of potential buyout (and future park) sites:
- Red Fields to Green Fields [Speedwell Foundation]
- Red Fields to Green Fields: Parks Solve the Urban Real Estate Crisis [ASLA Northern California Chapter]
- Red Fields to Green Fields: Houston (PDF) [Speedwell Foundation]
Video: Speedwell Foundation