My friend Neal and I were in a tall building recently looking out over the city, and noted that there is an interesting phenomenon in Houston. There are now enough tall buildings to almost outline a new zone. If you go from the Medical Center up to Downtown, west along Allen Parkway/Memorial, south along 610/Post Oak, back east to Greenway Plaza, and then southeast to return to the Medical Center (here's a satellite map of the area - sorry I'm not skilled enough to overlay an outline) there is an almost continuous - well not continuous - but a substantial line of skyscrapers. And it's pretty green within that zone, as least from an elevated viewpoint. And we named it "The Walled Garden". Somewhat similar aesthetically to New York's Central Park or Chicago's Millennium Park, but much larger and, of course, not a public park. It does, in my stretched definition, contain the key parks of central Houston: Hermann, Discovery Green, Eleanor Tinsley/Buffalo Bayou, and Memorial (my concept, my boundaries ;). It also contains such key areas as the Galleria, Highland Village, River Oaks, Upper Kirby, Montrose/Neartown, Midtown, the Museum District, Rice University and the Rice Village.
"Inside the Loop" is a very common phrase you'll hear in Houston. I'd like to think "The Walled Garden" could be a similar such phrase describing a narrower zone where young singles want to live (as evidenced by the explosion in apartment construction within it) vs. more family-oriented areas like West U, Bellaire, The Heights, or the various neighborhoods of the east side. It could also be used for branding and attracting young talent to Houston, like the way people talk about the Near North Side/Lincoln Park in Chicago or Santa Monica in LA or Manhattan in NYC. By having a unifying label over the area, it's easier to promote it. And I think "Houston's Walled Garden" has a pretty appealing ring to it.
Now if only they could only fill in the gaps a bit, maybe with a tower somewhere near Ashby and Bissonnet?... ;-)
I'll end with a few small misc items to close out the post:
- The Economist on the greening of Houston. Hat tip to Kelly.
- Aaron Renn/The Urbanophile on the high-speed rail boondoggle in this country, especially California, which looks to do for rail infrastructure investments what Vietnam did for military adventures.
- Texas again ranked as the #1 best state for business
- Mayor Parker on the Colbert Report. I think she held her own and promoted the city well.
- Take note, Mayor Parker: big city democrats are embracing privatization to cut costs and do more for less (WSJ)
Finally, I completely agree with the recent op-ed in the Chronicle advocating to keep the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto battlefield (WSJ story). They attract far more visitors as a combination than separate. Trying to get kids to go see an empty battlefield? Boring. Oh, there's a real battleship there too. Cool!
This piece first appeared at Houston Strategies blog.