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5 Things To Know About Placemaking In Houston

Fountains at Houston's Discovery Green

How do you transform nowhere into somewhere? 

Though urban planners and architects have been using the term for more than a decade, “placemaking” has only recently entered the vocabulary of developers and other real estate professionals. 

Placemaking entails a reimagining of an area or property — a long-empty warehouse becomes a concert venue; a railyard just outside downtown could be the future site of a public park fronted by bistros and boutiques. The goal is to create a destination, a “place” that draws in new visitors, new businesses and new life.

As younger residents search for dense urban environments, Houston is looking to address the auto-centric sprawl that has kept these vibrant destination neighborhoods from springing up. At Bisnow’s Houston Placemaking event, the brightest minds in Houston design, planning and development will come together to discuss what goes into these destinations and how to make the most of this budding trend in Texas.

Here are five things to know about placemaking:

1. It’s built on experiences

To draw in new visitors, place-made destinations can’t just offer somewhere to sleep and things to buy — they have to offer something to do and paint a picture of an entire lifestyle. That means building public land that creates community, like playgrounds, green spaces and dog runs. It also means choosing businesses that traffic in experiences, like outdoor restaurants, gyms and pop-up shops

Market Square Park in Houston

2. It’s all about mixed-use 

While drawing in foot traffic for retail is the goal for many placemaking developers, a destination can’t just be a glorified shopping center. In order to reframe a whole district, you want people to use it for many purposes. There should be office space and places for workers to eat lunch, but also residences to create a new neighborhood vibe.

3. It takes a coalition

Creating something from nothing is not easy, and placemaking takes a coalition of developers, local government officials, urban planners, architects and designers. Without input from a wide swathe of sources, the destination may never get off the ground.

Colors at Discovery Green, Houston

4. It’s already happening in Houston

Placemaking is in its infancy in Texas, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t underway. Areas like Market Square Park and Discovery Green saw concerted efforts in the last decade to revamp their use and bring in new life, to great effect. The city has a pipeline of new placemaking projects to come.

5. Bisnow’s Houston Placemaking event is Sept. 12

The biggest names in development, planning and leasing are gathering at the St. Regis on Sept. 12 to discuss the future of placemaking in Houston. Alongside networking, food and drinks, panelists will discuss how to weave retail into a destination and what sorts of businesses can form the anchor for a new urban hub for Houston.