While highly publicized redevelopment initiatives are aimed at adding new uses and activities to downtown and beyond, the office workplace remains the economic engine of the central city, and Central Houston’s Economic Development Program plays an integral role by focusing on factors which are critically important to investors, building owners, property managers, brokers and tenants.
The urban core offers a unique and vibrant business incubation ecosystem, made up of lawyers, consultants, commercial banks, accountants, investment bankers and other firms, providing a dramatic boost to most any type of business, but especially emerging businesses in the energy sector. As the energy capital, this pivotal business district in Houston is not only focused on searching and drilling for oil, but is home to major players in retail, pipeline, energy trading, petrochemicals, oil and gas, exploration and production, wind energy, solar energy, wires and transmissions, electricity generators, construction and marketing for all of these areas.
This hub of industry leaders and pioneers, coupled with the energy support and service industries, yields a population of highly professional and service-oriented workers which is fueling the growth in downtown’s expanding residential, retail and hospitality industries.
Business retention and expansion (BR&E) is the foundation of any sound economic development program, thus, the focus on existing companies is critical to the strength of the local economic base. Studies have shown that the businesses already existing in a community are responsible for up to 80 percent of all net new local employment.
Central Houston’s BR&E program involves working with brokers, property management companies, investors and economic development professional partners. Our team is willing and equipped to assist you and your business with any concerns or opportunities that may arise pertaining to Downtown, from transportation connectivity to talent attraction or employee retention through our marketing efforts, public safety initiatives and more.
- strengthen and diversify the overall economic base;
- generate additional prospects and leads;
- attract international and national corporations;
- continue to be the premier global office destination location in the State;
- influence how Downtown is perceived in the minds of the target audience;
- present Downtown in a competitive manner that is relevant;
- and establish strong relationships with local brokers, site selectors, and business prospects.
Central Houston and the Downtown District have released Plan Downtown: Converging Culture, Lifestyle & Commerce. This 20-year vision plan outlines recommendations for both short-term and long-term planning, development and design that will improve the visitor appeal, business climate, livability and connectivity within and around Downtown Houston leading up to the city’s bicentennial in 2036.
Plan Downtown is broken down into four pillars: Downtown is Houston’s greatest place to be; Downtown is the premier business and government location; Downtown is the standard for urban livability; and Downtown is the innovative leader in connectivity. The Plan considers these interdependent goals in over 150 individual suggestions, ranging from big-picture ideas to small, localized upgrades that would subtly improve the quality of urban life.
With funding from the Downtown District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority and Houston First Corporation, Asakura Robinson led the Plan Downtown effort with consultants Sasaki, Traffic Engineers, Inc. (TEI) and HR&A Advisors. In addition to a core leadership team that included representatives from the City of Houston, Harris County, Central Houston, Downtown District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority / TIRZ No. 3, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Theater District Houston, along with representatives from East Downtown, Greater East End, Greater Northside and Midtown Management Districts, the consultants tapped a larger 166- member steering committee of elected officials, community leaders and area residents to provide input to frame plan recommendations.
Project representatives engaged stakeholders in a series of topic-focused meetings, public workshops, online surveys and text campaigns. Eighteen months of public input and expert analysis led to a detailed and adaptable roadmap that identifies stakeholders’ areas of responsibility, designates a phasing strategy and pinpoints funding opportunities for projects and concepts. Findings relate to the core principals of Plan Houston, the city’s first General Plan, adopted by Houston City Council in the fall of 2015.
- Creating a Green Loop, a 5-mile transportation and recreation circuit that connects Downtown to adjacent neighborhoods.
- Enhancing walkability of Downtown through the development of Downtown Design Guidelines and the addition of new destinations.
- Establishing an Innovation District as the center for technology and entrepreneurship in the Houston region by strengthening connections between businesses/funders and entrepreneurs and pursuing partnerships with area universities.
- Building 12,000 additional Downtown residential units to support population growth from 7,500 to 30,000 over the next 20 years, and enhance the area amenities available to current and future residents.
- Adapting to autonomous vehicles by positioning Downtown to benefit from new technologies.
Downtown and its surrounding districts are not just the center of business, the central core of the city is where thousands of people spend large amounts of time living, recreating, dining, being entertained and more.
Over the years, Central Houston has led extensive planning studies beginning with the 1987 Design Plan for Downtown Houston, a detailed agenda for physical change with specific recommendations regarding the core area, bayou corridor, east side civic complex (George R. Brown), new neighborhoods and streets and public spaces. Today, planning work, including the 2004 Houston Downtown Development Framework which is currently being updated, is a roadmap for current and future development downtown and beyond. Planning is critical to Central Houston and is a collaborative process involving organizations and entities, both public and private.
In addition to planning, Central Houston considers space management, operations and programming a priority, with the Downtown District taking the lead. Streetscape amenities such as improved lighting, banners and vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding systems are not only important, but in this day and age, expected and integral in creating a quality place to live, work and visit.
Programming could be temporary art, a theater performance, an outdoor concert or a citywide civic celebration— all are major traffic drivers and are creating economic benefits with their neighborhoods and beyond. Downtown hosts thousands of events annually, both big and small. It’s always been the preferred place for Houston’s signature events and citywide celebrations. Many people may not know this, but Central Houston not only supports, but has helped facilitate many of these events including the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Freedom Over Texas, Party on the Plaza, Rendevous Houston: by John Michael Jarre and, of course, major sporting events such as All-Star games, NCAA Final Fours and Super Bowls.
Feeling safe is one of the most important qualities of a good place. Central Houston has worked diligently in minimizing crime as well as assisting with ordinance enforcement and change. In 1984, the Security Coordination Group was formed. Many successes were the result of this group including the opening of the Downtown Public Safety Center storefront, championing the Aggressive Panhandling Ordinance in 1992, initiating the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol in 1985 and facilitating HPD’s Downtown Police Center in 1991.
Central Houston has also spent decades working to address the homeless sector. Central Houston has provided the leadership to bring agencies together and line up major grants to fund those efforts. Mass system changes have been made, and, today, Veterans homelessness has virtually ended in Houston, and strides are being made toward ending other categories of homelessness. Central Houston helped write the initial ten year plan for the Coalition of the Homeless and, more recently, has assisted in uniting more than 100 different agencies under The Way Home, a comprehensive and collaborative initiative that has transformed the homeless housing and services response system.
Central Houston is committed to conceptual envisioning for the long term. Our organization, members and board understand the value of planning paired with patience. We strive to think ideas through, find solid, feasible ways to achieve goals and get results.
An efficient and effective transit system provides accessibility to the city’s central core. This was a priority in the early years of Central Houston and the organization continues to seek transit and accessibility options to fuel the thriving hub.
In a growing city, where many people travel 10, 30 or even 70 miles a day, it is crucial for transit and all forms of mobility to be appealing, efficient and accessible across the board. That’s why, since its beginning, Central Houston has worked with METRO to help inform decisions and outcomes, often through elections and successful referenda. Central Houston has collaborated with METRO on Regional Transit Plans that received wide community support. The organizations worked together on the Downtown Transit Streets project to improve transit service and sidewalk and street conditions for transit patrons and pedestrians. Central Houston and METRO worked together, again, on the light rail plans and today, Central Houston is a vigorous advocate of METRO’s new System Reimaging Network, a transit system for the Houston region that lets more people get to more places, more quickly, more of the time.
Effective transportation planning seeks to expand access and connectivity for all modes. Central Houston has conducted six Downtown commute surveys since 1987 to better understand travel behavior of their stakeholders. In addition to METRO bus and rail, Central Houston supports multi-mode transit access, including Houston’s bike share program, Houston BCycle; the first two-way cycle track on Lamar Street connecting Buffalo Bayou Park to Discovery Green and the new cycle track on the newly reimagined Bagby Street; and other services such as the City’s new taxicab app, rideshare programs and car-share provider Zip Car.
Two long-range and very high-profile projects Central Houston is deeply involved with include TxDOT’s North Houston Highway Improvement Project and the proposed high-speed rail line, specifically its connection to Downtown and other major employment centers in the central city.
Beyond the borders of Downtown, Central Houston seeks to consider the bigger picture of the broader central city to enable a prosperous future for Houston. The concentrations of people and essential businesses in the collective Downtown-Uptown-Texas Medical Center area are integral to the future of the entire city and region.