Need an Introduction to All the New Stuff Going into Buffalo Bayou Park? This’ll Be a Good Place To Start

Wortham Insurance Visitors Center, Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston

Here’s a photo from earlier this month showing construction progress on the new Wortham Insurance Visitors Center on Sabine St., fronting the “Waterworks” area of the ever-expanding Buffalo Bayou Park complex. When it’s complete — sometime this summer — the 2,736-sq.-ft. building will house an info desk, a bike-rental facility, and — yes — restrooms. A terrace on top will be available for special events. A gaggle of insurance companies led by Wortham Insurance donated $750K toward the building’s more-than-$1-million construction cost.

The building, designed by Page — the same firm responsible for the buildings on Discovery Green — is meant to serve as the “primary gateway” to Buffalo Bayou Park, including these surrounding features:


Rendering of Wortham Insurance Visitors Center, Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston

Sabine St. is pictured at the bottom right in the rendering above; the Parks department’s Jamail Skate Park is on the left. Pretty much everything else shown in the drawing is a new feature going in as part of the Waterworks portion of the park, including the Sky Lawn and Sky Lawn Pavilion directly behind the Visitors Center (atop the famed abandoned cistern) and the Nature Play Area along the northern bank of the bayou at the bottom of the rendering.

Images: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Same Wortham, Different Center

23 Comment

  • Its great to get some new restrooms but the only available restroom for miles is already in the skate park next door. Any others getting built?

  • I think it is great that Houston is giving attention to these types of amenities these days; the city has ignored these types of investments for decades. Having lived in Katy most of my years, I can say that a good majority of the residents in the suburbs have no clue what has been changing under their noses.

    That said, the city has to do a better job of providing more parking. I only see more and more people taking advantage of all the changes, but most have no place to park unless they arrive early and “camp out” to save a spot.

  • The city is spending very little in this park. Nonprofits with corporate and individual donations are funding this. A trust has been set up for maintenance cost with the donations also.

    Many of the users now are walking to the park and using nearby on street parking. Increased parking will come with the Allen Parkway project Swamplot profiled in the past.

    HCFCD with the USACE also played a major roll in clearing out invasive plant species and reconstructing the bayou banks.

  • Will there also be extra HPD Officers on patrol to make sure no criminals are waiting in the new bathrooms???

  • As kjb434 said, the renovation of this park is basically entirely funded with private funds and donations. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the nonprofit heading up the effort.

    The funding of major parks is a big misconception in this city. Hermann Park and Buffalo Bayou Park are both largely operated via private donations and funding.

  • I think I read that there will be public restrooms in the still under construction boat launch building off Dunlavy. This park really is’becoming the crown jewel of Houston.

  • Though all this is great, but I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll be any “park” left when they’re finished. I appreciate all these immunities, but it’s like a never ending building cycle at Buffalo Bayou Park, it’s becoming like a corporate campuses recreational annex. I like a lot of what’s been done, it looks great, but let’s all agree that there are enough buildings, massive skate pools etc. in this small park.

  • bedmondson,

    More restrooms will be in the building being built at Lost Lake (intersection of Allen Parkway and Dunlavy).

  • I’m torn. Improvements to the paths, infrastructure, and whatnot is great. But this seems so crammed full of stuff that it has lost that wide open, wild looking respite from the city appeal. Now it’s more like memorial or hermann, too crowded to deal with.

  • The real jewel of this park will be the art gallery they are developing under the lawn. Using the pillar supports underground, they plan to develop the area into a very gothic looking art gallery.

  • I love all of these improvements. Im very excited about the kayak rental area. It would make impromptu kayak trips much easier. Does anyone know if its allowed to launch a boat with a small outboard motor in the bayou? If so where do you launch?

  • Re art… let’s hope they put up some blank canvases for the jackasses that will certainly tag it. You know they will!

  • @MontroseResident: Urban cores are different from Katy. Less land is devoted to parking because people use public transit. That’s the theory anyway. Montrose is well served by public transit. Hopping a bus to the bayou should be easier than driving a car.

  • @Shannon
    My sentiments exactly. I feel like the tipping point of BB of having the same feel as Discovery Green is just a matter of time. I was there a few weekends ago on the first nice day we had in a while to go for a walk and it felt busy and crowded. I was lucky to find parking as well. It might become one of those get-there-early-or-not-at-all kind of places. I don’t really like the bikers sharing some of of the same paths as pedestrians – not at that density.

  • The structure they’re building at Lost Lake near Dunlavy is very nice, but it will go underwater when there’s heavy rains/tropical storms. In fact, all of the renovations are guaranteed to flood at some point. Surely they took that into account?? I’ve seen Buffalo Bayou overflow all the way across Allen Parkway several times.

    I also agree with Shannon that the renovations have reached the saturation point. Let’s leave some nature and not make it into another Riverwalk.

  • As someone who has used Buffalo Bayou Park for biking and running for 20 years or so, I wish that the plan ended with upgraded trails and a touch of landscaping…and the bridges are nice. Much of the rest of the construction seems to be an attempt to appeal to a more suburban mindset.

  • The best was when they cut down the trees to build the budwiser stage or whatever and then talked about all the greens space they were adding to Houston.

  • Not to pile on, because I think that most of the improvements are nice, but it would have been cool to spread the love around to other sections of other bayous. I know they money was raised specifically for this section, but my section of Brays (Meyerland area) is nice, but some additional landscaping and upgraded paths to the Museums would be great. Guess we have to raise our own funds? Will be hard given the movers and shakers are most located around Allen Parkway!

  • There is no filthier waterway in the nation and, of course, Houston corporations want to celebrate this pit.

  • Don’t feed the troll ^

    This is such an exciting project. BBP should be so proud of their work.

  • Reminder to those that think the park is somehow being taken away. This new pavilion (and Sky Lawn) is on land that was never open to the public. And, the lost lake Pavillion is in an are that was unusable before. So it’s a net gain, not a loss. And I’m always surprised that people think that they are the only ones who remember the floods. All structures that are built take flood planes into account. And, guess what…they also have insurance if they do get flooded. Additionally, much of these improvements, which they surely are, were designed to alleviate flooding as well. The removal of a small grove of trees was unfortunate. But, what about the thousands and thousands that have been planted. Seems like a better than fair trade. So, it’s winter, it’s muddy, the the trees are bare and work isn’t yet done. Let’s stop bitching and be grateful to the BBP for having such a vision and give us all this amazing place, for us all to be proud of an enjoy.

  • @ Texmex01 Why you, Joe Horn, and George Zimmer start a patrol if you so concerned about ‘all the criminals waiting in the bathrooms’?

  • I’ve lived in the 6th ward for years and think it’s awesome! Houston is growing up,…and making it happen.