Downtown’s Upcoming Rental Park Should Be Around as Long as the Auto Shop Building It’s Replacing, But No Guarantees

Nancy Sarnoff has a few more details today on what the Downtown Redevelopment Authority will be paying the private owner of the area shown shaded at top — which wouldn’t give up its one-acre parcel there for a new park but will grant the Authority a 30-year lease for: “$355,992 in annual rent,” during the first 5 years, a spokeswoman says, with a 10 percent hike every 5 years thereafter. With that agreement in place — and the Goodyear Auto Service Center that currently occupies the block’s Fannin-St.-side slated for demo next April — the Authority is now seeking plans from landscape architects that’d be responsible for designing the space, though it notes that whatever the chosen firm comes up with “will have a potentially short life, between 30 and 50 years, per the lease agreement currently in place and options to extend.” (The parking lot shown without shading belongs to the South Texas College of Law and is there to stay.)

But that hasn’t stopped those involved from dreaming big while they can. A conceptual map of the park drawn up Project for Public Spaces — a New York planning firm hired to brainstormed some preliminary ideas for the Authority — shows it divvied up among a pair of buildings and a variety of different green spaces including a dog park:


The “Front Yard,” would be an entrance area with seating and decorative touches to lure people in; the “Flex Lawn,” a bigger space suitable for events; the “Garden,” a landscaped area for nature-watching; “Game Room” for tabletop games and communal seating; and “Backyard” an extra hangout space to accommodate customers of near the adjacent 2-story cafe.

That’s just one proposal for the layout. Other designs put the cafe up close to Fannin St. in place of Goodyear’s garages viewed below from the north — where it’d be more visible to passers-by:

Or the 2 buildings could abut each other and wrap the the law school parking lot, walling it off more formidably from the park than a fence would.

Photos and map: Project for Public Spaces

Block 333

11 Comment

  • I am glad to see a new park in that part of downtown, but damn—as if the NE parking lot wasn’t annoying enough.

  • Put a 30-foot high brick wall directly around that parking lot. Paint trompe-l’oeil on the side facing the lot that directly depicts what would be seen if the wall weren’t there.

  • If they won’t sell, then just pass on leasing the land. There is a park (Root) only a few blocks away and the walk will do the tenants in the adjacent building some good.

  • The city could just eminent domain the whole block if they wanted to.

  • What is up with that lease? Seems like a lot of money for a park, especially when there is one a few block away. Must admit, I don’t know how the City manages or acquires parks.

  • Oh man that parking lot is brutal!!! What a shame they couldn’t work out a deal with the college.

  • A ground leased park? Has this been done elsewhere?

  • “$355,992 in annual rent” (with annual increases later) for a downtown park!!! I never heard of renting land for a park, but this price seems to be absurd. Granted, this is almost a full block of high-dollar real estate in downtown Houston. There had to be a better deal elsewhere. Relieved to know the City of Houston isn’t involved in this green $pace.

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa! Paying $355,992 in annual rent for the first 5 years – then a 10% escalation every 5 years after that? For a park? And, not even a complete block?
    Boy, someone at the development authority needs some life skills in knowing a good deal from a bad deal. (This is bad, by the way.) I thought the City was bad at making deals but I guess the Redevelopment Authority showed them who could do it worse.

  • I think if the improvements on the land are minimal (as opposed to a 5+ story building or something along those lines), the city may be better off leasing than owning. That .7 acres is worth about $250/foot (would be more but they only own 70% of the city block, limits development and actually drives down value) and would be a $7.5MM price tag.

    They have leased this site at a number that will not hit that number for 20 years. This is smart government. For the owner, he’s your standard “owns downtown land” guy who thinks it’s better to know he’s sitting on a winning lotto ticket rather than cash it and roll the proceeds into passive income producing financial instruments. Good for him. He gets to pay normal income rate of 39.6% rather than a long term gain rate of 23.8% (or 0% if he were to tax exchange the sale).

    For the city, now they can spread a significant cost over 30 years and keep millions of dollars of discretionary money on the books for more “now” problems like road infrastructure, drainage, sidewalk repair (right Houston???).

    Everybody wins. i look forward to the make-shift park. 30 years is a LONNNNGGGGG time in the scheme of things. Think of Houston 30 years ago. 1988 was not a banner time here. This city has become something great in that time. So instead of a goodyear tire shop and concrete parking, for $30,000 a month my eyes get to see an urban park space. bravo.

  • You’re probably overstating the value of that land by a bit. Probably wouldn’t trade for any more than $175-185. Your point still stands though.