Who will pay for Houston's own Central Park?

Mayor White has announced plans to acquire land near the George R. Brown Convention Center, part of his broader plan to create a large, downtown park:

Mayor Bill White announced today that he has completed negotiations with Crescent Real Estate Equities, Ltd. Partnership to acquire 5.29 acres of land for a major new central park in downtown Houston. The new central park would entail over $35 million in private contributions, and amount to more than 13 acres. This acquisition will consolidate the City of Houston’s ownership of the “Superblock” in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center and a block immediately to the west, all of which will be made into an urban park to be opened as soon as late 2007.

“Great cities preserve land for public plazas, parks and gathering places for the future,” said Mayor White. “We now have an opportunity - probably our last opportunity as a city - to create a place like that for us in Houston’s central core. A new major park will be an enduring legacy for our efforts to improve Houston’s quality of life.”

Eighty percent or more of incremental funds required to complete acquisition and development of the park will be raised from private sources. Design and development will be accomplished through a private/public partnership.

Mayor White currently is working with a number of interested individuals and organizations to secure the private funding required for site acquisition, design and construction. The schedule calls for site acquisition to be complete by the end of 2004, pending City Council approval of the project and agreement with those private funders.

It's good to know that Mayor White is already acting to implement his park project even though City Council has apparently not yet approved it. And it must be reassuring for taxpayers to hear that tired promise that someone else will fund "most" of an exciting new project.

Mike Snyder adds this tidbit:

The city's contributions would come from hotel and entertainment tax revenues rather than property taxes, White said.

Hotel and entertainment tax revenues may be an unsteady source of funding for the Mayor's new project, if recent history is any guide.

That's not to say that the mayor's proposal doesn't have its appeal. His presentations are always appealing. But this proposal needs to be reconciled with other priorities in the city, by all the city's relevant elected officials. That means City Council needs to be engaged fully, and the cost to taxpayers needs to be spelled out more clearly.

MORE: Coverage from KTRK-13, KHOU-11, KPRC-2, and the Houston Business Journal.

(10-20-2004 Update) Mike Snyder has additional coverage here.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 10/19/04 10:10 PM | Print |

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