Houston’s Levy Park has long been recognized as one of the city’s best mixed-use green spaces, but now that recognition has gone international: Levy Park has been named as one of the five finalists eligible for the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Urban Open Space award. The finalists were selected out of a pool of 49 submissions from five countries and were chosen based on the open spaces’ design, programming, community benefits, partnerships and funding, and demonstration of value. The winner of the Urban Open Space award will receive a $10,000 prize in addition to international acclaim.
The ULI is an international nonprofit whose mission is to “provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.” Aside from Levy Park, the other four finalists for the Urban Open Space award are Ricardo Lara park in Lynwood, California; Quequechan River Rail Trail in Fall River Massachusetts; Baxi River Forest Island in Changsha, China; and Madrid Rio Park in Madrid, Spain.
The recent redevelopment Levy Park has been a huge boon for the city. After its founding in 1941, the park floundered as rapid development hindered access to the grounds. In recent years, a $15 million investment and redesigned access has meant the park receives over 10,000 visitors a week, up from a low of 75 visitors a week.
In a press release announcing the finalists, the ULI pointed to the leadership of The Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority (UKRA) as key to the revitalization of this now thriving green space:
The Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority (UKRA) saw opportunity in the underused asset and initiated plans to reenvision the park as a connected, accessible, and financially sustainable multiuse space.
More development is planned for Levy Park, including two new restaurants, expanded community gardens, and event spaces. All of that redevelopment has attracted the attention of the ULI, who call the park “an active, vibrant civic destination” which “emphasizes environmental and social sustainability.”