Grassy Knolls, Children’s Swamp Part of Possible Hermann Park Parking Coverup

GRASSY KNOLLS, CHILDREN’S SWAMP PART OF POSSIBLE HERMANN PARK PARKING COVERUP Existing Hermann Park MapThis week landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh has been discussing some of his firm’s preliminary designs for the next 20-year master plan for Hermann Park, writes Molly Glentzer this afternoon — including the possibility of turning the park’s central parking area, between Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Houston Zoo, into “a place where children could scamper up a knoll to a creature forest, swings and a marsh,” with parking spaces underneath. Van Valkenburgh says that a few hundred of the 1,300 spaces in the main lots may also be moved to the corner of MacGregor and Cambridge streets, and would also be covered over by ecological and built attractions. Glentzer writes that “along with the forest and marsh, the preliminary drawings for the central knoll include a sensory maze, a desert ruin and a slide bluff. The smaller knoll would have a water play dell.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing Hermann Park layout: Hermann Park Conservancy

29 Comment

  • If there is money for this plan, Go for it!
    Some hills and underground parking sound awesome.
    Also be sure folks can park remotely and train in. That’s a great experience for the kids.

  • As long as they can keep funding it privately, go ahead and make as many 20-year master plans as you want. :)
    I think Hermann Park looks pretty spiffy as it is right now after the Centennial Garden re-do with parking lot improvements. So, no need to rush changing what is a beautiful park now.

  • The less space blighted by surface parking lots, the better. One thing I’d like to see them do is improve pedestrian connections to surrounding areas. It’s a bit difficult to simply walk into the park from some nearby light rail/bus stops and residences. There are some unnecessarily circuitous routes and difficult street crossings you have to make.

  • Excited to see that they’re considering parking relief. I was fortunate to live by the park for years and could just walk/bike there, but parking is a major problem whenever the weather is beautiful or there is an event. Would be great if all of the parking was under ground and the rest of the land was reclaimed for said activities.

  • Right now is a bad time to be predicting parking lot requirements for the next 20 years. Driverless cars may make them obsolete.
    If that happens they can turn the parking lot into a “parking lot museum”. Kids of the future can visit it to get a feel for what life in the 20th century was like. They could even ride the Vulture Express, a 2mph trip up and down row after row of filler parking spaces that goes on for hours.

  • 1.) Eliminate all surface parking and put in a parking structure or underground parking that can be shared with the Medical center
    2.) Eliminate Fannin…. well this is Houston so at least merge it with Main and try to align Fannin/MAin on the western most edge of the park.
    3.) Re-align the Light Rail to just east of new Main/Fannin.

  • Why not add a Metro stop at the entrance of the park? Anyone who’s had to take the Metro with kids, (sleeping kids!), knows how dangerous it is, car fumes, and just a long hike overall.

    I know I’m dreaming, but since they are too, why not dream for a stop at the entrance? :)

  • More parking is always appreciated, but underground lots sure are an expensive way to get there (especially since, as was mentioned, driverless cars will likely have a major impact on long-term parking requirements).

    Why not just allow weekend street/parallel parking on Fannin between Hermann Park Drive and Cambridge Street? There is no need for two traffic lanes in both direction, except to handle weekday rush-hour med center traffic. The cost would be almost nothing.

  • the tragedy is that half the park is wasted on a golf course. they need to turn that into usable park space for everyone.

  • Some good ideas in here, especially parallel parking along Fannin, better pedestrian connections, and getting rid of the golf course.
    If anyone remember’s Laurie Olin’s original plan (circa 1994) which was the blueprint for most of the improvements the past twenty years, a big part of it was to replace the giant parking lot with an Olmstedian “Great Meadow.” I think that was the only part of the plan that didn’t come to fruition.
    It would be incredible to build an underground garage for a major city park like this. How many parks can you think of larger than 50 acres that have underground parking? The big-time cities expect you to get there via rail or foot, the remaining cities have surface parking. To say, “Let’s spend tens of millions on an underground garage because none of our 445 acres should be sullied by a parking lot” shows the extraordinary level of cash flowing through the Houston cultural scene.

  • @Mike: Grant Park (Chicago) has extensive underground parking, as does Boston Common/Garden.

  • @MontroseResident: The entrance? There are a bunch of entrances to Hermann Park. There’s already a bus stop at Kush Corner if that’s the entrance you’re thinking of.
    @Grant: Please don’t take a lane from Fannin unless you have some other plan for getting bike traffic through the area.

  • @MontroseResident:
    There are already three stops servicing Hermann Park:
    * the Museum District stop a block away from the north entrance
    * the Hermann Park/Rice U stop near the middle, from which you can walk through to the rest of the park
    * the Memorial Hermann/Houston Zoo stop a block away from the southernmost corner of the park
    I’m not sure what other stops you could want, without constructing another rail line along a different edge of the park. Consider it a learning opportunity to teach your children how to cross the street safely using the pedestrian signals provided. (Pro tip: push the button and wait for the walkie man. According to a FOAF, Metro PD *do* patrol the park stops, and they *do* give tickets, and those tickets *are* expensive.)

  • Also, on weekends you can parallel park along the northbound side of Main. It’s only a slim block away from Fannin. Leave Fannin alone.

  • Even if self driving cars clear all leaps and bounds, it’s not like we couldn’t easily retrofit an underground parking garage for additional utilitarian uses. A parking garage is just a garage at the end of the day.
    I bet an underground bike / skateboard park would pull in 3 times as many people as what a golf course does. There is money to be made here park folks.

  • yes, please kill that golf course. what a waste of space for 95% of Houstonians.

  • I don’t understand why people are so eager to dig-up these golf courses. I have always seen them as large well maintained green spaces. They are great compliments to these parks. Just because you aren’t actively using them (ie playing golf) doesn’t mean they don’t add value to the outdoor aesthetics of the area. Plus the people that do use them, pay the highest price of any other activity in the part. I am fine with having the golfers supplement my green views.

  • Nice, Homeless kush smokers can moved underground so they don’t pass out at the playgrounds

  • Why the hard-on for four-lane Fannin? It sits basically empty on weekends. One lane in each direction (or at least the northbound direction) would be plenty. The parking along Main is already full on weekends.

    In fact, when you consider that 95% of traffic in the park on weekends consists of people looking for parking, allowing parallel parking along the outer lanes of most four-lane roads in/near the park on weekends would likely actually get traffic moving faster.

  • Clarification… when I said Metro, I was thinking/referring to the train, not the bus. And the main enterance, the other entrances are not always open.

  • rex, for no other reason than it is a very large green space that is explicitly for use by a very small portion of the public. there is so much they could do with that land that would make it available for use by so much more of the population. I say this as someone who used to play golf twice every weekend, and still plays as time permits, at least once a month.
    I love golf. But that course is a colossal waste of space. Our zoo is very cramped. I’d love to see at least half of the land be used for a zoo annex. The other half could be used as another formatted garden space, maybe make the centennial garden larger.
    maybe a compromise is in order, make each hole on the golf course a formatted hole. Hole 8 could be the lions savanna, for instance. that would make for exciting headlines: Local golfer mauled by lion while putting.

  • Important to note that most public and civic institutions are based on maximizing utilisation rates for their scarce and finite resources. Using finite resources to increase revenue, or even subsidize other public funds, is generally considered bad taste as it entails the vast majority having to accept a lower standard of living for the benefit of a small percentage of users. Such revenue/funding streams are far more efficient when incorporated into the tax code.
    It’s a bit different for things like tollways since theoretically (though actually completely intentional) we wouldn’t of had the funds to purchase the land for new roadways without the tolls.
    Now, perhaps the revenue from Herman Park was used to purchased the land for the golf course which is now used to subsidize the funding of Herman Park. But to just cut off a part of the park to be used for revenue rather than recreation is not a smart utilisation of resources. Focusing on increasing utilisation of all parts of the park at all times of the day would have a far bigger monetization impact through sales and property tax receipts in the surrounding areas and better diversifies the revenue stream.
    However, old folks are the ones with money so I imagine they’re the ones donating the majority of funding to Hermann Park and very much want to keep that course.

  • In my mind green space is isn’t something that has to be ‘used’. I enjoy jogging the trails next to the Herman park golf course as much as I like jogging in or around any other green space. Just like I enjoy jogging through a River Oaks neighborhood with immaculate landscaping. It is even nicer to see landscaping when you know someone else is paying (mostly) for it. I don’t have to be able to kick a soccer ball, watch concert, or have a place for my dog to poop on it to enjoy its beauty. It can be ‘utilized’ without stepping foot on the space. I green space can be enjoyed from adjacent space or blocks away in its sights, smells, and sounds (or lack of).

  • @Grant: I ride my bike on Fannin every Saturday and Sunday morning. It is never empty. It is full of drivers in some big hurry to get somewhere. Church, I imagine.
    @MontroseResident: There’s a giant train stop between Fannin and Main. It can’t get any closer to the park without being inside it. There’s another stop up by the museums. And there are no “closed” entrances to the park.

  • @Memebag… Ha…. ‘sorry, again, yet another clarification. You see, I think everyone can read my mind. When the words ‘Hermann Park’ are mentioned, for some reason, the main thought I have is the Zoo! I am referring to the Houston Zoo, and it has only one entrance which is always open, the other one on Cambridge is open sometimes, but not always. I can see why it was confusing, sorry.

  • The property at the corner of Cambridge @ MacGregor could better utilized by building a multi-storied parking garage, that could be used by the Park and the hospital district. Parking at Ben Taub Hospital, like Hermann Park, can be impossible at times. More (not less) parking in the area is needed and that corner is a good area to put it. If they really want to do underground parking thing, it should be placed under the golf course and then they’d get better use out of that land.
    Underground areas near bayous tends to flood anyway, plus the proposed underground parking design seems like a great dark place for mosquitos and vagrants to hang out. There would probably have to be 24 hour security with the way the parking is currently designed.

  • If you look closely at the plan, you’ll see it is not “underground” – it is at grade and they are building the structure for the playgrounds above it.

    This is much cheaper than going underground – and will allow it to be used for something else if driverless cars do take over one day.

  • Here is the right but unpopular thing to do. Get rid of the golf course and expand the zoo and the park in that direction. It is amazing to see the zoo and Hermann Park filled with thousands of people in that space while there are only 20 people using the golf course. It’s ridiculous and to be quite honest, even unfair to most tax payers. I say get rid of the golf course.

  • Hermann park differs from parks in other cities because people drive to it. Sometimes from very far. Houston is not like NYC, Boston, Chicago or Philadelphia in the sense that those cities have a very efficient transportation system in the form of subways and trains. Our train (and I understand you have to start somewhere), goes nowhere any local find useful. Houston needs at least three commuter trains. One going west, one north and one south/south east. Instead we have a line that goes by the park but nowhere near were most people drive from. The Metro bus system, despite of their own accolades, it’s a joke. What Houston needs is more rail and a bus system that feeds the rail system. London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid and on an on. What these cities have in common is an effective transportation system to move massive amount of people per day. If we had that, the whole parking issue over at Hermann Park would not exist. There is an arrogance in this town against rapid transit that is actually incomprehensible.

    Hermann Park is one of the city’s true gems. It houses the Zoo which has become a very nice institution within the last 20 or so years. It houses the Miller Outdoor Theater which is actually a pretty good outdoor venue, (they could hold more events there though and find better endowment to display higher profile shows). The gardens, the location within the museum district and so forth, etc. There are many reasons as to why this park is such a destination and the conservancy has done very well in making it even greater but the fact remains that to visit it, one must drive. Even if you want to take the “advantage” of the train you must drive to within a couple of miles from the park to take the one bit of train track that takes you there.

    I have lived in Houston for almost four decades now and have seen many positive changes in regards to the city parks and museums. The transportation infrastructure however is much too slow in catching up to the level of other world-class cities. To be blunt, even Dallas (which I consider nowhere near as good as Houston in terms of looks and diversity), has a much better rail system that started in the 80’s but has grown steadily to be what it is today. I supposed we’ll get eventually but we keep delaying the train through objections from where it goes and so forth. By now, downtown and uptown should have been linked through a rail system with a series of commuter trains rolling from the suburbs and a bus feeder system working in conjunction to actually make good use of a transportation system. This would create the proper room for the park to not have to worry even about having cars inside of it but until the anti-rail way of thinking goes away, this will always be an issue. What the heck, just keep widening the freeways, right?