A street, a few gray parking lots, and a little patch of unused green. Dreary. When the property in downtown Houston came up for sale, city leaders knew they could find a better use for it than yet another condo/office building or a parking garage. They proposed Discovery Green, a 12-acre, $122 million park in the heart of downtown that has reminded urban planners of the power and potential of green space. Year-round programming — exercise classes, concerts, films, festivals, a farmers' market — have helped Discovery Green beat attendance forecasts. "Downtown hasn't been known as a place to come on the weekends, but now you see thousands of people, families, and kids from all parts of the city," says park director Guy Hagstette. Despite a weakening real-estate market, development around Discovery Green is still strong. And, of course, the park is appropriately earth-loving, recycling its water and waste and drawing 100% of its power from renewable sources. Yes, we agree: much better than a parking garage.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.