Banking on Buffalo Bayou | Summer 2016

Dear Friends:

Summer is usually a time when life seems to slow down. You may find yourself laying back in a hammock, reading a book or taking a long-needed vacation. But here at Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP), we are as busy as ever.

After two years of construction, we recently moved our administrative office to the renovated Sunset Coffee Building at historic Allen’s Landing in downtown. Over in Buffalo Bayou Park, the Cistern – an abandoned City of Houston drinking water reservoir – opened to the public in mid-May. Since that time, tours have been completely sold out!

We also have been very busy conducting interviews about Buffalo Bayou with reporters and writers from all over the U.S. and world, including Mexico, Canada, Australia and the U.K. Please see the “In the News” section for a run down on who is helping us get the word out.

Anne joined a group of park leaders from around the country for a two-day meeting at the High Line in New York City. Executive directors, board members and donors shared their success stories and challenges, and talked about the future of urban reuse park projects. Anne also attended the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America conference in Atlanta where representatives from government, business, nonprofits and philanthropic institutions joined President Bill Clinton in discussing a broad range of issues facing this country.

For the remainder of the summer, we’ll be busy getting our new administrative office organized and planning BBP’s fall events including KBR Kids Day (October 15) and our annual BBP Gala (November 10).

Despite the heat, we hope you’ll be able to take a leisurely stroll along Buffalo Bayou, grab a snack at The Kitchen at The Dunlavy, or treat yourself to a snow cone or cold drink from one of the food trucks at The Water Works.

Enjoy your summer… wherever your travels take you!


Collin Cox                                  Anne Olson
Board Chair                                President

BBP Drops Anchor at Allen’s Landing

BBP recently moved into the historic Sunset Coffee Building at Allen’s Landing in downtown. Besides BBP’s administrative office, the 12,000 square foot facility will house boating and biking concessions and the Sunset Café, a casual coffee shop. The building’s plaza provides a strong presence along Commerce Street and the rooftop terrace offers spectacular views of the bayou and downtown skyline. Both areas will be available for rental.
“We are thrilled with our new home and all that it offers,” remarks Anne Olson, BBP’s President. "The Sunset Coffee Building and Allen’s Landing have special significance as it was Houston’s founding site and served as the city’s first port. It makes so much sense for our organization to be headquartered here."
BBP is partnering with Houston First, the local government corporation that oversees the city’s convention and cultural facilities. Once construction is completed, Houston First will own and operate the building.

Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern: Attracting Thousands

A tour-goer enters the dark serpentine Cistern entrance. Photo by @MyNameIsJustiin.
Since its opening in mid-May, the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern has experienced record-setting crowds and extensive publicity. Already, more than 6,000 visitors have enjoyed 30-minute tours. Once holding the city’s drinking water, the site was abandoned when it sprang an irreparable leak. About the size of 1.5 football fields (87,500 square feet) with 221 graceful 25-foot concrete columns, the Cistern reminds many visitors of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.
Docent-led tours currently highlight the history of Houston’s water system and provide interesting facts about the Cistern’s construction in 1926. Future plans call for BBP to periodically present temporary art installations focusing on sound and light. The organization is currently working with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to present an inaugural installation.
Inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Photo by @MabryCampbell.

Downtown Trail Opens

Taking part in the White Oak Trail groundbreaking, from left: Joe Turner, David Bradley, Collin Cox, Heather Ramsey-Cook, Beth White, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Council Member Carla Cisneros, Senator Rodney Ellis and Booker Morris, III. Photo courtesy of Houston Parks Board.
A continuing and important goal for BBP is providing connectivity up and down Houston’s historic waterway. On June 27, BBP joined Houston Parks & Recreation Department and Houston Parks Board to break ground on an important trail connection along lower White Oak Bayou near the University of Houston-Downtown. Funded through the federal TIGER program, the trail completes a 10-mile segment extending north all the way to the Timbergrove neighborhood and also connects to Buffalo Bayou Park on the west and to Buffalo Bayou trails east of downtown.

Developers Continue Banking on the Bayou

Buffalo Bayou continues to be a catalyst for real estate development as demonstrated by two recently announced projects. Across from Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston-based DC Partners plans to construct a mixed-use development at the southeast corner of Allen Parkway and Gillette Street. Initial plans call for housing, retail, an office tower and luxury hotel. This project adds to a growing list of other residential and mixed-use projects along the Allen Parkway/Buffalo Bayou corridor.

Development along the bayou is also extending east. As reported by Houston Chronicle and several real estate publications, Midway, the Houston company behind CityCentre, Greenstreet and other mixed-use developments, has joined in partnership with Cathexis, the company who purchased the former KBR site just south of Clinton Drive and north of Buffalo Bayou. The 136-acre property has long been coveted for its size and close proximity to downtown.

Midway is known for valuing green space as evidenced by its collaboration with Houston’s Upper Kirby District to redevelop Levy Park as part of Kirby Grove, an 11-acre community-focused, mixed-use project just off Alabama Street. BBP hopes to work with the Midway/Cathexis partnership to incorporate green space on the East End site where BBP already has an easement in place for a future hike and bike trail.

BBP President on the Road

Left: Park directors, donors and board members on the High Line.
Right: The “Texas delegation” out in full force. From top: Robert Hammond (High Line – A San Antonio native), Anne Olson (BBP), Brent Brown (Trinity River Park), Chris Knapp (Houston Parks Board), Melba Whatley (Waller Creek), Peter Mullan (Waller Creek), Beth White (Houston Parks Board), Sheila Grant (Klyde Warren Park) and Jody Grant (Klyde Warren Park).
Anne Olson recently returned to Houston after attending important national meetings focusing on park development and the nation’s economy. In New York City, Anne attended an event hosted by staff of the High Line, the famous elevated green space dubbed “the park in the sky.” During the two-day session, the group discussed topics such as park operations and maintenance, fundraising and social equity. In addition to BBP and Friends of the High Line, participating groups represented: 11th Street Bridge Park (Washington, D.C.), Atlanta Beltline, Klyde Warren Park (Dallas), Philadelphia Viaduct Rail Park, Under Gardiner (Toronto), Queensway (Queens), River LA (Los Angeles), The 606 (Chicago), The Lowline (New York City), The Underline (Miami), Trinity River Park (Dallas), Waller Creek (Austin), and Waterfront Seattle. Energized by the stimulating discussion, the group plans future meetings to continue its dialogue.
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America 2016 conference in Atlanta was another important opportunity for Anne to meet and hear from thought leaders throughout the county. CGI America’s mission is to bring together representatives from business, government, nonprofits as well as philanthropists to develop solutions that encourage continued economic growth, support long-term competiveness and increase social mobility in the U.S. At the core of the CGI America is the “Working Group” model, which consists of nine topic-specific groups, each bringing together 50-100 diverse leaders. The groups convene during several iterative sessions during the course of the conferences to share knowledge, build partnerships and generate “Commitments to Action,” which are concrete plans that address a pressing challenge. For Anne, the highlight of the conference was a thought-provoking conversation between former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the non-profit organization revitalizing and transforming Buffalo Bayou, Houston’s most significant natural resource.

Collin Cox, Board Chair
Anne Olson, President

In the News

BBP and Buffalo Bayou continue to garner significant local and national attention. Over the past three months alone, we have had more than 50 stories published and aired, many highlighting the newly opened Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Listed below is just a sampling:

It's playtime on the bayou trail, Houston Chronicle, June 24

Underneath Houston is a remarkable landmark, and now you can visit, Los Angeles Times, May 20

Forgotten Cistern Under Houston Park Opens for Tours, and Soon for Art, Next City, May 20

Hidden Beneath Houston — Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern Opens to the Public, Houston Matters, May 19

Buffalo Bayou Cistern Opens To Public, Houston Public Media, May 13

Buffalo Bayou Park's spanking new Water Works the coolest open air venue in town, Culturemap Houston, May 13

Buffalo Bayou cistern about to open to the public, KHOU 11, May 11

Underground Cistern opens to public in Buffalo Bayou Park on May 13, KPRC 2, May 10

Buffalo Bayou’s Cistern Opens Friday But You Can Peek In Right Now via Reverse Periscope, Swamplot, May 10

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park Opens Friday, ABC 13, May 10

Houston’s Magical Cistern Opens to the Public. And to Artists., Glasstire, May 9

Former drinking-water reservoir to open for tours in Houston, Houston Chronicle, May 9

What Can Milwaukee Learn From ‘Houstonization?’, Milwaukee Magazine, April 14

Get Out: Buffalo Bend Nature Park, Houstonia, April 8

Buffalo Bayou trail connection opens downtown, Houston Chronicle, March 31

Getting the Word Out

BBP staffers have been out and about spreading the word about the organization and Buffalo Bayou. Take a look at who we’ve been speaking to:
  • AARP Houston
  • Discovery Green Discussions: The Greening of Houston
  • East Bayou Civic Association
  • Executives Association of Houston
  • Frostwood Women’s Club
  • Greater Houston Partnership
  • Heritage Texas Properties
  • Houston Seminar
  • Kinder Institute for Urban Research Vanguard Program
  • Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Houston Delegation
  • University of Houston-Downtown Scholars Academy
Help BBP continue to revitalize and transform Buffalo Bayou, Houston's most significant resource.
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