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Can Houston Repeat The Buffalo Bayou Magic On Its Long-Neglected East Side?

Houston has long been divided into its east and west sides. Divided by Interstate 45, Houston’s west side has blossomed into the residential heart of the city, as developers pursue infill development and suburban sprawl in every westerly direction. Houston’s east side, anchored by the Houston ship channel, is the metro’s industrial hub. A bold new plan from the Buffalo Bayou Partnership will look to change that perception, extending the prosperity of Houston’s favorite green space into its most neglected neighborhoods.

Buffalo Bayou

Unveiled to fanfare this past weekend, the Partnership’s vision includes 40 miles of new and improved waterfront trails and bikeways, 200 acres of parks and unique public spaces, seven new boat landings and seven new pedestrian bridges. During the past 15 years, the organization has invested or leveraged more than $144M to compile a 70-acre patchwork of public spaces along the eastern waterfront. 

Learn more about Buffalo Bayou Partnership's plans, DC Partners' The Allen and other big developments planned for Houston's east side at Bisnow's Houston Major Projects event Nov. 21.

“We don’t plan to just pick up Buffalo Bayou Park and plop it over there,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership President Anne Olson told the Houston Chronicle. “This plan is about investing in communities that haven’t benefited from the same level of park funding that Houston’s more affluent communities have seen.”

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership was founded in 1986 to revitalize the 10-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou from Shepherd Drive to the Port of Houston Turning Basin. So far, work and development on the west side has been the focus, which is already paying off. 

Projects like Hanover’s forthcoming Buffalo Bayou mixed-use project are becoming the norm on the west side of Buffalo Bayou. Several projects already operate along the Bayou, with more high-profile projects on the way. Less than a mile east along the Bayou, DC Partners' $500M mixed-use, The Allen, is set to break ground soon. Further east, near Downtown, an ambitious redevelopment of the Barbara Jordan Post Office along the Bayou is in the works from Lovett Commercial. In total, billions of real estate development dollars are in play along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, extending all the way to Memorial Park. 

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership will hope to repeat its success on the east side of Houston. 

Midway East River

The Partnership’s plan for the east side is far more complicated than its work on the western side, according to the partnership. The proposed projects could take more than 20 more years to fully realize, requiring millions more dollars of investments and public-private partnerships. 

If the results are anything like what is happening on the west side of Buffalo Bayou, the investment will likely be worth it. 

“Buffalo Bayou East’s amazing industrial sites serve as a unique backdrop for creating new public spaces unlike anywhere else in Houston or in the country,” Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan lead designer Chris Matthews said in the release. “I applaud Buffalo Bayou Partnership for its commitment to seeing these industrial relics remain and incorporated into the bayou’s landscape.”

Midway's East River project, on the northern bank of the Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown, looks to be the first to capitalize on the the Partnership's master plan. Plans for the 150-acre site with 6,000 feet of waterfront show 8M SF of office, 500K SF of retail and more than 1,400 multifamily units. Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden said the company plans to break ground during the first quarter of next year. 

The Buffalo Bayou has been one of the hottest areas of infill development. Hear why from DC Partners CEO Roberto Contreras at Bisnow's Major Projects In HTX event coming up Nov. 21, where Houston developers and experts will break down the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan, and other game-changing projects, like the redevelopment of the Astrodome.