The Pierce Elevated Skypark Plan Isn’t Dead Yet

THE PIERCE ELEVATED SKYPARK PLAN ISN’T DEAD YET “You can’t just wait until the day that TxDOT asks you what to do with it,” Tami Merrick tells Stephen Paulsen in the Houston Press this morning, in reference to her involvement with the small group working toward publishing an economic study some time next year of those speculative plans to turn the Pierce Elevated into the Pierce Skypark. The segment of I-45 may ultimately be torn down so the right-of-way can be sold, once the planned spaghetti-riffic Downtown freeway reroute wraps up in a decade or so. But Paulsen writes that the planning group is nonetheless optimistic about getting a foot in the door when the moment is right: “At some point, the Pierce Elevated will stop serving cars. And when it does, the group argues, why wouldn’t the city want an innovative, prearranged plan for the abandoned stretch of freeway?” [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of Pierce Elevated as a park: Page/Marcus Martinez via Pierce Skypark

29 Comment

  • seriously? use a highway like a park? that’s so…. “Houston”
    Nothing pays homage to Houston’s expansive highway system than memorializing a useless road by making it a “Skyline park”.
    How’s about getting rid of it all together and having some proper green space, or would that not be Houston enough?

  • What I believe we, as a community, need to do is form a coalition to make this happen. By doing creating a coalition, we can organize and call council members, the Mayor, etc. to support us and probably obtain funding from big corporations/non-profits.

    Let’s make Houston change, if you are interested in this let me know so we can get together on this!


  • Getting rid of it to make more space for strip malls would be the true Houston way.

  • Yah, what William said…. Why can’t it just be torn down and replaced with surface level stuff? Seems easier and much more affordable than all the hypothetical crap proposed.

  • You can at least hide the homeless people underneath of a sky park. Can’t do that with a surface level park. They should also build a sky bridge to a nearby building with tunnel access. That way white collar Houstonians working downtown could enjoy the park above without have to see what’s below.

  • Curious if C is trolling?

  • We need the money for the cap parks, not this.

  • The model is NYC’s High Line, correct? I wonder how that’s been working. And all the other ones:

  • The city could make millions leasing the park out to film crews doing zombie movies. If you set the shot up on the part that goes over Travis St., you can frame the scene perfectly to have a highway overgrown with vegetation with the old Holiday Inn in the background. Save a bundle on CGI.

  • I still think that getting rid of the Pierce Elevated, by either demolishing it or changing it into a skypark, is a huge mistake. Those lanes will become even more valuable as the city continues to grow. Also, have you seen the current TxDOT plan? Think about how someone driving north on I-45 from say Clear Lake would access Allen Parkway, Memorial Drive, the City Courthouse, or the Theater District without the Pierce.

  • As long as you have an “elevated”, with or without a park, you will have a barrier with midtown and a place for the homeless to gather. Tear it down.

  • Yes, it looks cool, but Houston obviously has far more serious issues to deal with than turning desperately needed and highly utilized infrastructure into a park right next to the largest and most well funded park system in the entire county (bbayou). If TXDOT abandons it we should sell it off and focus on our community parks lacking proper investment, not glorified projects.
    What’s next, taxpayers start wasting more money on a privatized park in the middle of the astrodome? oh, wait…

  • @joey jo-jo: I believe you are referring to mattress stores.

  • I applaud your enthusiasm “C”. Probably not the right format for it though.

  • My current position on this plan is favorable (I think it warrants further study), but I just find this too richly ironic to resist… Directions to the office location of the people behind this idea, from their site:

    “Our office is on the western side of the Central Business District and most readily accessible by I-45. Northbound drivers can exit and turn right onto Memorial Drive and southbound drivers can exit McKinney Avenue. Both exits will lead to Smith Street, which is a southbound one-way….”

  • Ed’s post is 100% correct. End of discussion.

  • Ed you and I are on the same page. I spoke at one of the TxDOT meetings with your same comment. The Pierce Elevated right of way needs to be preserved as an east-west crosstown connector. It is stupid to route all of that traffic all the way around to the north or force people to go through downtown to access memorial parkway / allen parkway.

  • Houston has, for most of its history, has sacrificed green space and public attractions for the benefit of growth and business. Now, the city has the opportunity to absolve itself of its sins and create a huge green space that hugs downtown. For a city that has global aspirations, it seems imperative that we make the city more attractive and livable. Sure, the bayous are nice and discovery green is…small, but we don’t have a beach like Miami or a bay like San Francisco. In order to compete, Houston has to do what it does best – build. The Pierce Elevated is the perfect opportunity to upgrade our city core in a way that happens once in a city’s life.

    If that argument doesn’t win you over then just remember that Dallas is building it’s own world class park that hugs it’s downtown. Just saying…

  • You know what I’m sick of? This “We need the freeway lanes” argument.

    How many DECADES has this city spewed the same tired rhetoric, over and over and over? How many homes were lost along Katy Freeway all because “We need the lanes?” Just how many lanes does this city need to build to service our commuters? At what point do citizens and city leadership realize that we need to seriously rethink our commuting solutions?

    We don’t need the lanes. What we need is an effective mass transportation system that can serve and positively effect travel times. It doesn’t have to be limited to just light rail/BRT. It also should be Commuter Rail lines to replace Park & Ride busses that get stuck in the same traffic commuters are trying to avoid. The point is, give commuters options and they will take them, removing cars off the very freeways you claim you need more lanes.

    As for Pierce Elevated: I applaud the folks pushing the SkyPark and I hope it becomes a reality.

  • I concur with Ed, joel, Turning_Basin, and Meh. TXDoT’s plan has some issues. One of them is a bottleneck from the SE. Another is connectivity between the West End & UH/East End Yet another is connectivity between freeways and surface streets and the pressure that that’ll put on very particular parts of the Downtown and Midtown street grid. These are not the *only* problems.
    With very little modification to the plan as it is proposed, the Pierce ROW provides an opportunity to provide direct flyovers to Fannin (going south) & San Jacinto (going north) and perhaps other streets, enabling the grid to be used more efficiently and for at least a little bit more traffic to be taken off the freeways before it runs into bottlenecks.
    As for parks, there are better opportunities out there for land acquisitions. And as for barriers between Downtown and Midtown…both neighborhoods have done quite well. “EaDo” has done quite well. And in all three neighborhoods, there are multiple nooks and crannies that haven’t progressed much. I challenge somebody, anybody, to provide evidence that this is really a problem that needs solving.

  • What about flood control? Sure it can be a skypark like the high line in NYC but maybe include elements like that one canal in S. Korea…the two parks are not mutually exclusive in ideology, and an E-W connector of waterways makes sense in a future-proofing way it would seem to me

  • Ed has it right, my office overlooks Memorial coming into downtown. Every afternoon there are cars stacked up waiting through at least 4 or more light signal changes on Memorial to turn right to get onto 45 south, either to continue on 45 south, or get on 59 or 288. The same is true of drivers coming down Houston Street to enter 45 south.
    Connectivity from east to west, and from west to east is not going to be limited, or even decimated, it is going to be destroyed. This plan is horrible.
    I am waiting for someone to organize real opposition to this, rather than just complaining online about it though.

  • I’m not against putting in more greenspace in Houston. What I AM against is dumping even more money into the same area of Houston. Spread the love. Lots of other districts could really use some greenspace, there is plenty already in this area.

  • oh yeah, and that image shown for the vision is EXCEEDINGLY disingenuous. That area over buffalo bayou will still be freeway!

  • Want to revitalize that area of town? After the Pierce Elevated is detached from all roadways, move the Greyhound Station up there.

  • I’m all for parks, but so far I don’t see what will keep the homeless from migrating from under the bridge to the park itself. Should that happen, this effort will be a huge waste of time, tax dollars and construction related congestion..

  • The comment period on IH45Northandmore website has been extended through July 27, so anyone concerned about the connectivity issues, please go over there and sound off! toasty, I am all ears for ideas to give this issue more momentum and would be willing to devote time to it as well.

  • Does anyone see how screwed up this TXDOT plan is? They’re going to destroy part of EaDo and add a major thoroughfare through pedestrian midtown? WTF is wrong with this city?

  • Ditto. “I concur with Ed, joel, Turning_Basin, and Meh. TXDoT’s plan has some issues.” It’s already there, paid for and not that old. It would be wasteful to tear it down, and it’s still useful.