Levy Park, Kirby Grove: Examples to the Nation

Levy Park was once a tired baseball park and then an under-utilized dog park. Today, the park averages 10,000 visitors a week. You can still play ball on its large fields or visit one of the enclosed dog park, but Levy Park has been transformed as the result of a collaboration between the Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority (“UKRA”) and Midway Companies.

The Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority’s $15 million face-lift of Levy Park has set a new standard for activating park space. The renovation was funded by the UKRA and is maintained by the revenue generated from a 99-year lease arrangement between the UKRA and Midway Companies. This public-private partnership was the first of its kind for the area. A large part of the attraction to Levy Park is the book-ended Kirby Grove development by Midway Companies that provides retail and a neighborhood feel to the previously hidden park.

Levy Park, recently recognized as one of the top 32 best urban parks in America, now features a children’s playground, an enclosed dog park, performance pavilion, community gardens, promenade, games and reading area, and two large open lawns for various activities. The park also features park wide WiFi and convenience outlets for patrons to charge laptops, phones and the like. Another distinctive feature is the park’s shade and beauty, provided by 30 live oak trees that were preserved in the renovation.

The children’s playground has become an instant hit, with the sprawling playground featuring a climbing wall, 7-foot-tall slide, treehouse, and interactive water features. Additionally, the world-class urban space plans to have year-round programming for both adults and children, such as yoga, meditation, piano concerts, hula hooping and a Houston Public Library story hour. A schedule for the park’s daily activities is listed on the Levy Park webpage.

The Kirby Grove/Levy Park partnership combines to form an 11-acre urban activity center that hosts a mix of Class-A offices, multi-family lofts, premium and ground-level retail options that activate Levy Park. The development consists of two major structures, Avenue One on the north side of the park and Avenue Grove on the south side.

Avenue One, a 16-story, 225,000 s.f., LEED Gold office building, houses a suite of professional office options, while integrating ground level retail space. The building has an integrated garage with 852 parking spaces, with an additional 120 parking spaces on the street. Avenue Grove, a LEED Silver residential tower, has 270 residential urban flats that have access to the 10,000 s.f. amenity deck, which includes an outdoor lounge, pool, and kitchen areas that overlook the new Levy Park. Walking from nearby by apartments and offices is easy, and Upper Kirby is working on plans to improve connections.

Levy Park and Kirby Grove are world-class examples of how the public and private sector can find ways to bring the best of both worlds to Houston.