Recently renovated, this 11.78 acre public city park is thought of by locals as a much needed urban oasis. It is very community spirited, offering free yoga classes, toddler story times as well as movie nights and regular concerts. It also has a playground, free WiFi, open air reading rooms and an area from which you can borrow games and balls when the family feels like getting active. Alternatively, just enjoy a picnic as you laze on the upward sloping green, relax and watch everyone else. A great family day. Discovery Green is a beautiful, vibrant 12-acre park in the heart of downtown Houston that opened to the public in April 2008. The park was envisioned by several committed Houston philanthropists, who saw the space as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an urban park that would redefine the landscape of downtown. In less than four years, the site that became Discovery Green was transformed from an undeveloped, concrete eyesore into a beautiful and vibrant destination adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center. Discovery Green exemplifies a successful public-private partnership between the City of Houston, the Houston First Corporation and Discovery Green Conservancy, the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that operates and maintains the park. The Conservancy produces hundreds of free events each year and receives no direct city funding.
The current site of Discovery Green was originally a high-end residential neighborhood in the late 19th century. By the late 20th century, the site had become two large parking lots adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center, with a small strip of green space known as the Houston Center Gardens. The City of Houston acquired a portion of the land in 2002. When the rest of the property went up for sale, a group of philanthropists led by Maconda Brown O’Connor of the Brown Foundation, and Nancy G. Kinder of the Kinder Foundation approached then-Mayor Bill White with their idea of turning the space into an urban park. The Mayor agreed and became a strong advocate of a public-private partnership. Several other philanthropic foundations joined the effort, including the Wortham Foundation and the Houston Endowment, Inc.
The City of Houston purchased the remainder of the land in 2004 and created the framework for the park’s construction and operations, including the role of the new organization, Discovery Green Conservancy, incorporated in 2004. When the Houston City Council approved the contracts to provide funding and support to the park, it also mandated that the “public at large” be engaged in the design and development of the park. With the guidance of Project for Public Spaces, the Conservancy mounted an intensive public process, which included both large public meetings and smaller focus groups to solicit public feedback. This feedback became the basis for the park’s programming. The Conservancy also worked with the local media and community sponsors and sought the help of the public by creating a contest to name the park. More than 6,200 entries were submitted. “Discovery Green” was selected as it fit the personality of the park, and invited discovery and education, delight and surprise.