The Next Big Idea: Pierce Skypark

A "big idea" for one of the largest cities in the US is the transformation of a to-be-abandoned elevated expressway that runs through downtown into an urban park in the sky.

However, the concept is more than just green space; it's also a potential financial engine, visitor attraction and a connector of several key districts ringing downtown Houston. Pierce Skypark was first introduced in 2014 and has recently received additional media attention for the plans to conduct an economic feasibility study.

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle noted that a source of inspiration, the High Line in New York City, a former railroad transformed into a green space is projected to generate more than $1 billion in taxes over 20 years.

The genesis of the idea originated when the Texas Department of Transportation announced plans to close down the frequently gridlocked section of freeway and reroute traffic to the other side of downtown. Public concerns immediately sprang up, ranging from the effects of demolition on Buffalo Bayou Park, an urban park that runs underneath the freeway to the cost of demolition to the potential blight on the currently unused land underneath the freeway. Pager Tami Merrick wondered why it couldn't simply be repurposed to benefit the public and recruited colleagues John Cryer and Marcus Martinez. 

While supporters point to other successful adaptive reuse projects elsewhere such as the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston, the Klyde Warren in Dallas and the Embarcadero in San Francisco, Pierce Skypark actually would be the first roadway in the world to undergo such a transformation.

In addition to residential and mixed-used neighborhoods, the Skypark would connect significant destinations such as Buffalo Bayou Park with Houston's East End Esplanade and create a new opportunity for non-motorists to easily access Discovery Green, a popular urban park in central downtown. 

An extensive article in Houston Press described the process for bringing Pierce Skypark closer to a formal proposal. The Page team emphasizes it is only a concept today and that any actual design is a long way off. As designer Marcus Martinez explained, ""We're thinking about the fabric first; the objects can follow later.”

Others in the industry have seized on the idea with young architecture professionals creating their own versions of what Pierce Skypark could be. Board Emeritus member John Cryer said. "Houston has always thought big and bold and here's an opportunity to do it big and bold."

To view the article in the Houston Press, click here

To view the article in the Houston Chronicle, click here

To view all renderings and learn more about the Pierce Skypark concept, click here