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Main Street Square



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CONTACT:   Robert Eury
Central Houston


Urban architecture and design will include water features, landscaping, dining and shopping

Main Street 8wideHOUSTON, TX  May 8, 2002 - Main Street Square, Houston's downtown central plaza, will boast innovative architecture and a design built around two light rail stations in the 900 and 1100 blocks of Main Street.  Dramatic water fountains, unique landscaping, shopping, dining and art will transform the location into an active town square.  The car-free space is scheduled for completion by January 2004, the same time as Metro's light rail system. 

"We believe that the square is the right thing to do at this time in Houston's history," said Jack Blanton, co-chair of the fundraising group for the project.  "Our downtown should be very special, very attractive and very much a statement that this area is the center of the city."

The civic "room" serves as a landmark in Houston's progressive approach to urban development.  Location is important as the space links the east and west sides of the City's central business district at the heart of pedestrian activity.  The square contributes to a revitalized retail atmosphere and provides a relaxing and social space to the changing downtown environment.  

The location also holds special significance based on events in the city's history.  Main Street was the site of the USS Houston volunteer induction, lunch counter desegregation and was the home of the historic Lamar Hotel. 

"This site has served as the center of our community for over half a century," said co-chair James Elkins, Jr.  "I am excited by the plans to reassert the prominence of this location."

Inventive design will distinguish the civic area from any other Houston environment.  Ehrenkrantz, Ecstut & Kuhn Architects developed the plaza's concept for Houston's Main Street Master Plan on behalf of the Main Street Coalition. The internationally renowned firm is best known for their work on Battery Park City in New York.  The local affiliated architect is Pierce, Goodwin, Alexander & Linville which has designed Metro's downtown portion of the Main Street light rail project.

"Significant public places---be they plazas, parks, esplanades or squares---are a hallmark of great cities," said Ming Wu, Design Principal of Ehrenkrantz, Ecstut & Kuhn Architects.  "They lend an enduring urbanity to city living.  Main Street Square will bring just such a quality to, as well as establish an important new address, within downtown Houston."

The focal point of the square will be the light rail, which runs down the center of the street and is flanked by station platforms in the 900 and 1100 blocks.  A large pool in the 1000 block with dramatic "pop jets" of water will create a corridor through which the trains will pass.  The jets will create a series of water archways, while smaller jets will animate the perimeter of the pool. 

Main Street Square will begin construction in June 2002 and will coincide with other downtown street construction to avoid any additional closures and delays.  Light rail will provide Main Street with one lane of traffic each way, and therefore it will serve as a local street.  The 1000 block of Main will serve as the plaza's traffic-free zone. 

"After serious study, we believe that the need for pedestrian space in this area takes precedence over the single lane of traffic in the 1000 block of Main," said Bob Eury, President of Central Houston Civic Improvement, Inc.  "Research shows that traffic will not be hindered around the plaza."

Architectural lighting will play an important role in creating a unique space.  Fisher Marantz Stone, the firm that created the World Trade Center lighting tribute to victims of September 11th, will design specialized lighting for the plaza ranging from intimate accents to monumental markers.

Colored light panels from 22 to 40 feet in height will line the center of the plaza, easily seen from a distance at night.  The central fountain lighting and additional accents will offer visitors an exciting flavor during the day that transforms into an intimate and comfortable setting in the evening.

Masterfully planned landscaping will elicit the feel of a green garden, full of flowering plants, trees and plenty of shade.  Walkways will display bold pavement patterns, canopies and public seating. 

Main Street was once Houston's retail core, playing host to Neiman Marcus, Sakowitz, Foley's, movie theaters and many other outlets.  Main Street Square will bring retail vitality back to the area by returning world-class shopping to the plaza and the surrounding blocks.  John Williams, a recognized expert on downtown retail environments, believes the square will address the need for a retail hub in the heart of downtown. 

"In the 40's and 50's, this section of Main Street was a bustling hub for retail in Houston," said Guy Hagstette, Project Manager for Main Street Square.  "We want to reintroduce that attractive retail environment in the form of a city gathering place - a true civic center.  Through months of research and studying other cities successes, we know this area will thrive."

Additionally, the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County have commissioned artists Michael Davis of San Pedro, CA and Floyd Newsum of Houston to incorporate Houston-inspired art as a creative design element.  Much of the art will focus on the rich history of the Main Street location.

The plaza will be an iconic cornerstone of the Main Street corridor's vision for redevelopment.  The Main Street Coalition's efforts to revitalize this historic street between Reliant Park and downtown, will have added significance and value with the creation of Main Street Square.

"We envision a signature public space desperately needed in the historic heart of downtown," said Eury.  "Main Street Square will become the city's epicenter, serving as an oasis for Houstonians to relax, shop, dine and enjoy our city center."

The project is estimated to cost $8.9 million, with more than $6 million to come from private grants and donations.

About Central Houston Civic Improvement, Inc.
Central Houston Civic Improvement, Inc. is the charitable affiliate of Central Houston, Inc., a member organization dedicated to the revitalization of Houston's downtown and center city.  The entity was formed in 1984 and has assisted in funding Buffalo Bayou, Sesquicentennial Park, the Houston Police Mounted Patrol, the Theater District and other civic projects. 

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