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Big Ideas For Houston's Big Problem Areas

We all love Houston, but the city is not perfect. Locals know all too well the horrors of endless freeways and soaring vacancy. A group of young local designers came together to show some love to Houston's forgotten spaces. Their bold visions and striking design offer a glimpse into what Houston could become.

Lower Westheimer - Pedestrian Takeover 

Lower Westheimer, Gensler ByDesign

As home to some of the city's best bars, restaurants and nightclubs, Montrose has become a pedestrian hub. The portion of Westheimer between Shepherd and Montrose is a headache. The constricted road and small sidewalks are a concern for business owners, residents and party-goers alike.

Gensler's Jong Kim, Amanda Heineman and Laura Robinson have a solution: a complete pedestrian takeover in four phases. 

Phase 1: Widen the sidewalk while creating a colonnade of trees, add designated ride-sharing drop-off points, additional parklettes and a food truck park.

Phase 2: Adding in iconic street lighting down the median of Westheimer and an automated parking garage at Kuester and Westheimer. 

Phase 3: Build the Lower Westheimer Gondola. With such a beautiful redesign, why not take it in from the air? The gondola would be a key attraction for the area. 

Phase 4: Remove car and bus traffic through the corridor. The entire portion of Westheimer will have transformed into a greenway with gondolas flying overhead.

Loop 720 

Loop 720

The idea presented by Gensler's Edgar Rodriguez, Jordan Gomez and Ryan Marches may be the boldest. The team wants to create a hyperloop transportation hub in EaDo.

The new transportation method being pioneered by SpaceX uses magnetic levitation and propels the vehicles up to 760 mph at a fraction of the cost of more traditional forms of transportation. The bullet train will get you to Dallas in 90 mins. A hyperloop would do it in just 30 for less than half the price. The hyperloop hub would allow Houstonians and Texans to reach other metros with ease, creating a free-flowing and fast-moving state economy. Imagine waking up in Houston, going to a morning meeting in Dallas, and being back before noon.

The Gensler team's plan would transform the massive parking lot North of Texas Avenue into a transport, office and hospitality hub, allowing visitors to walk to Houston's most popular destinations like the GRB or Toyota Center. 

Lyft Sky Park 

Lyft, ByDesign Gensler

At some point, nearly every visitor to Downtown Houston has asked where all the people are. Underground! Gensler's Tiger Lyon proposed repurposing the underused parking lot across from One Shell into a park and monument to highlight Downtown's best feature. The design would "lift" the street, revealing the tunnel system beneath, creating an iconic Downtown meeting point with layered connectivity. 

Pierce Elevated 

Pierce Elevated, Gensler ByDesign

TXDOT is working on plans for the Pierce Elevated section of I-45 that snakes south of Downtown. Gensler's Angela Palmer asked what we could we do with it if we keep it. The Pierce Elevated is like an artery in Houston's heart, connecting Northside, EaDo, Downtown, Midtown and Washington Heights. Palmer proposed keeping the existing infrastructure, with its plentiful on- and off-ramps, and transforming it to a park and bike super-highway to connect cyclists to Houston's busiest neighborhoods. 

High Hackers

High Hackers

Houston's vacant office space is giving CRE pros a headache. Gensler's Tayler Trojcak and Paulina Abella have a plan to utilize the millions of unused square feet: create the next generation of co-working with modular, scalable office space for any sized operation. The term "hackers" refers to a culture that takes an existing tool, tests the limits and makes it their own. The idea challenges the existing co-working market by targeting makers, artists and academics. Instead of renting office space, they rent pods that can be configured and combined in thousands of different ways. 

Gensler ByDesign 2017

The team of young professionals at Gensler shared their ideas over cocktails and delicious bites during a happy hour at Gensler Houston's office.