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September 2016 Update

September 6, 2016

Over the past two years, we have worked hard to secure the Glenbrook property on Sims Bayou and create an extraordinary master plan that will guide the development of the Houston Botanic Garden in the years ahead. To fulfill the promise of delivering a world-class garden and destination, we must now turn our attention to fundraising and implementation of West 8’s beautiful plan. Implementation will occur in multiple phases, and this fall we will finalize the elements in the first phase: the initial collection gardens, the main entrance off of Park Place Boulevard, a bridge to the island, and the facilities and infrastructure needed to support early and future operations.

As we turn this page and start a new chapter, we have also made a transition to new leadership. The Houston Botanic Garden Board is very grateful to Jeff Ross for his dedication to the bold idea of creating a beautiful botanic garden in Houston. Jeff worked tirelessly to secure the perfect location for our garden, and we will always be grateful for his service.

A national search for a new Executive Director of the Houston Botanic Garden will begin shortly. To lead the organization in the meantime, the Board is delighted to announce that Claudia Gee Vassar will serve us as Interim Executive Director. Claudia is a native Houstonian and Rice graduate who earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. After practicing law for a decade, Claudia decided to make a career change and began working with Houston nonprofits to help guide them through periods of transition and growth. She served as Interim Executive Director for SIRE, Inc., EMERGE Fellowship, and ArtBridge, and has completed consulting projects for local organizations including the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, Young Audiences of Houston, and Main Street Ministries. She will bring great experience and value to our organization.

A Flourishing Affair: September 2015

Photo by David Rossman

The River Oaks Country Club was abuzz on September 24, 2015 as a sold out crowd of 530 garden-lovers attended our "Botanical Beginnings" Luncheon.

President and CEO Jeff E. Ross shared that, thanks to Mayor Parker and a unanimous vote of City Council, the Houston Botanic Garden has secured use of the 120-acre site currently inhabited by the Glenbrook Park Golf Course. Ross also shared that the board has worked diligently to select a visionary master planner, urban design and landscape architecture firm West 8 New York, for the project.

West 8 and its founding partner and design director, Adriaan Geuze, have had the honor of winning a number of high profile design competitions such as Governors Island in New York, Toronto's New Central Waterfront, Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, and Madrid RIO Park. Their team is at the frontline of urban design and landscape architecture by utilizing a technique of relating contemporary culture, urban identity, architecture, public space and engineering within one design, always taking context into account.

Mary Pat Matheson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, shared with the crowd her enthusiasm for the potential of the Houston Botanic Garden. Its multiple impacts, she opined, include that it will become an important part of improving the quality of life in Houston, will have a significant impact on the city's tourism economy, will be rich in educational opportunities, and will become a beloved destination for Houston area families.

Keynote speaker, West 8's Geuze, shared preliminary design concepts for the garden to an enthusiastic audience.

The luncheon raised $400,000 for the organization, which plans to establish and sustain a premier botanic garden in Houston in the coming years.

 

Master Plan: Q & A

Why is the Garden going to be located at Glenbrook Park Golf Course?

The City of Houston offered the Glenbrook site on a long-term lease to the Houston Botanic Garden which was unanimously approved by City Council in January 2015. Houston Botanic Garden then commenced with the preparation of the master plan. This has involved ongoing meetings with the local community and other interested groups to learn about people’s concerns and hopes relating to the development and operation of the Garden.

 

How much will it cost to enter the Houston Botanic Garden?

We are studying admission policies, discounted admissions, and types of membership at other botanic gardens around the country and other similar institutions in Houston.

It is likely final decisions on admission and membership policies and costs will be made once the Garden is under construction and close to opening.

 

Will neighbors have free access to the Garden?

We want all Houstonians to be able to enjoy the Garden. Many museums and attractions have periodic, sponsored “free days,” and we have learned of botanic gardens that have a discounted neighborhood membership.

We think these are ideas worth investigating further and hope to find sponsors for free admission programs to help subsidize these programs.

 

What will happen in Charlton Park?

The Garden’s lease provides access through the easternmost edge of Charlton Park away from the building, pavilion, tennis courts and playground. Other than the entry to the Garden, Charlton Park will remain a City park facility.  

We aim to minimize negative impact on Charlton Park and to enhance the Park with any potential impacts, such as by adding shade trees or other beautification along Park Place Blvd.

 

What about the school? Won’t the new Garden create traffic problems for the school?

We plan to be a good neighbor and to manage traffic and Garden operations when the school has its peak traffic periods.

 

What is the Garden doing to ensure that there will not be noise pollution during special events?

The City of Houston has very clear regulations on sound, and the Houston Botanic Garden will comply with all City regulations. The City Sound Ordinance was adopted specifically to protect neighborhood residents from noise pollution.

 

What will the Garden do to ensure that lighting will not be a problem?

The botanic garden is designed with nature at the core of its mission. We do not anticipate a problem with lighting and look forward to updating you when we are further along in our design process.

 

The site is filled with birds and nature. What will the construction do to this beautiful environment?

The Garden will aim to enhance the site and play up its beautiful features while creating a place for learning, gathering and recreating.

There will be many types of gardens, including woodland gardens with trails, and the natural bayou will be treated as a special feature. In fact, many of the gardens will be on the island created by the bayou and the oxbow. 

 

Will the Garden have security?

Yes, the Garden will have a security plan. We are designing what we hope is a welcoming, safe and beautiful place.

 

Will there be a parking garage?

We are planning surface parking inside the Garden for visitors and employees for the term of this master plan.

 

What type of programming will there be?

Great ideas were suggested at the May community meeting for programming related to learning, community gathering and recreation.  

We are working to incorporate these ideas into the planning and are looking forward to your additional ideas at the community meeting on September 30, 2015.  

Programming will be more defined in the 6 to 12 months prior to opening. We look forward to keeping you posted.

 

What is the project timeline?

Right now, Houston Botanic Garden has a contract with the City of Houston for a 30-year lease on the Glenbrook Park Golf Course site with two 30-year renewal periods. The Garden must meet fundraising goals by year end 2015 and year end 2017 in accordance with the City contract. The Houston Botanic Garden will not be permitted to occupy the site until it meets the 2017 goal.

We are currently in the early stages of the design phase and are raising money to meet the fundraising goals and to construct the Garden.

We have a plan to raise funds, prepare designs, and complete construction so that we can open sometime in 2020. Of course, all things need to happen as hoped for us to make this schedule. We will continue to monitor and update this timeline as we proceed.

 

How can I stay involved? Will there be more meetings?

The Garden is committed to being a good neighbor and an asset to this area. We want to keep the lines of communication open with the surrounding neighborhoods and work together.

We have created multiple formats for communication: community meetings, the website (which will be updated periodically), and we also have established a Community Sounding Board with representatives of each of the nearby neighborhoods to help us dig deeper into addressing community concern and to establish a forum for communication and collaboration on shared concerns. 

We will continue to explore ways to gather information and communicate with the community as we move through planning, design and construction. After opening, the Houston Botanic Garden will work with the community to understand operations questions and to generate solutions.

Summary of the recent Community Meeting- Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at Park Place Elementary School Image

The Houston Botanic Garden hosted a community workshop on Tuesday evening, May 12, 2015 at Park Place Elementary School in the vicinity of the garden site.  Nearly 160 people attended the meeting which was introduced by Joe Turner, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, and District I Councilmember Robert Gallegos.  West 8 Landscape Architecture, the firm engaged by Houston Botanic Garden to prepare the master plan, led the workshop in which attendees were asked to “Imagine Your Day” at the Botanic Garden and prioritize activities and landscape types. Everyone in attendance participated in a report-back session describing their thoughts and priorities for the Garden, in addition to sharing questions and concerns.

Among the items of interest highlighted were: programming and events to be provided at the Botanic Garden; the relationship between the surrounding neighborhoods and the Botanic Garden; accessibility, light and noise conditions; the role of the bayou and native ecology at the Botanic Garden; cost of admission; public safety within the Botanic Garden; construction timeline and commencement; parking and traffic plans; and overall interest of Houston Botanic Garden in this location.

The development of the master plan will consider these items as well as the “Imagine Your Day” preferences identified by the many participants at the community meeting.  To aid in the discussion, a large scale aerial photograph of the site was on display as well as a topographic model of the site.

West 8 will continue its work on the master plan throughout the summer with the intent of a second public workshop in early fall, followed by a presentation of the master plan to the Mayor’s office in October 2015.  Houston Botanic Garden thanks all who attended and who shared their thoughts at the community meeting.