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Strengthening connections between existing businesses and the startup community while prototyping the “office of the future” to launch, grow, and retain cutting-edge businesses

Downtown Houston Development Framework

City of Houston
Houston, TX
7 Square Miles
Asakura Robinson, HR&A
Planning and Urban Design
Additional Services
Landscape Architecture
Completed 2017

Houston is famous in planning circles for its lack of zoning and embodiment of a sprawling city. However, over the last decade, Houston has made powerful gestures towards urbanism through large investments in urban parks, transit, signature projects, and Plan Houston, a broad comprehensive plan for the city. Plan Downtown builds on those investments to create an urban design vision for Downtown Houston.

Sasaki led the landscape and urban design for Plan Downtown, utilizing an approach that took the principles of Plan Houston and transformed them into an urban design framework that connects existing districts to emerging ones, re-balances the public realm for all modes, and builds new relationships with adjacent neighborhoods. Most importantly, it frames current and future individual investments within a clear overall vision: a 21st Century Downtown with an active public realm, innovative businesses, and robust amenities.

More specific goals for the project include an examination of how to extend existing networks of green infrastructure and parks, how to balance the needs of commuters with the desire for more livable streets, and how to make downtown a competitive destination for both visitors and a growing workforce. To inform and enrich the plan, the team utilized a broad range of engagement activities, including text and online surveys, public workshops, tours, topical focus groups, and neighborhood connection charrettes.

Strategically located within Houston, downtown is uniquely positioned as the central node of a larger innovation corridor that can leverage distinct partnership advantages with major institutions in order to grow entrepreneurial activity and retain local talent. The Downtown Innovation District can also leverage Downtown’s advantage in the energy sector by encouraging incubator, accelerator, and co-working spaces targeted at these industries.

Critical goals of the plan are to help ensure that start-up and small businesses reach a pivotal density within downtown, that research and business partnerships prosper, and that the necessary capital is available to keep businesses in Houston as they grow and require additional investment. By offering the correct mix of downtown office space for start-ups and small businesses, innovators and their funders will be attracted to and remain within Downtown.

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