With so much to offer, including a thriving economy, a flourishing and culturally rich art, entertainment and food scene and a multicultural society, it’s easy to see why Forbes recently named Houston as “America’s next great global city.” Houston is booming, and the future of our city has never looked brighter.
Some famous Houstonians agree. Inspired by a 1979 cover of the former publication, Houston City Magazine, which asked prominent locals to imagine what Houston would be like in 1999, CultureMap invited several hometown notables, some who were born here and some who have come to call Houston home, to share their visions for what the city will be like 20 years from now — in the year 2033.
Retired American professional boxer, former two-time World Heavyweight Champion, Olympic gold medalist
"In 20 years, Houston will be one of the largest cities in the U.S. We’ll see a slow, steady growth rate; this will allow us time to look at other cities that may have grown too quickly, and learn from their mistakes.
"Dwight Howard shopped around before signing with the Houston Rockets. There was something special he saw here that he didn't see anywhere else. I like to think that what he saw was this city's liveliness.
"This, plus a true understanding of how to grow -— with a low unemployment rate, and building upon our friendliness and diversity -- means people and businesses will continue to seek this city out.
"I love Houston! I left in 1965 for a job, but came back for good in 1976 to make a life for myself here. I don't plan on ever moving. My friends from all over the world come to visit me and I tell them all, Houston is the place to be!"
News anchor, KPRC Houston
"With all the in-town development that's taking place, it's clear to see that people in Houston, especially the younger crowd and empty nesters, want to live in a more urban setting with shopping and conveniences outside of their high-rise, mid-rise or multi-use property.
"By 2033, inside those residences, you'll see one large TV set with varied capabilities.
"Otherwise, people will get their news and information mainly on their portable devices or high tech glasses — where you might still see me in 20 years!"
"It’s exciting to think of where fashion in Houston will be in the next 20 years. I’ve been back in Houston for 13 years and I've seen a lot of growth in just that amount of time, even through a recession.
"By 2033, there will be an even a bigger fashion scene, in part due to Houston designers laying the groundwork now, through Houston Designed, for a fashion manufacturing district. This will create production resources for local and non-local designers alike.
"Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. with over 80 languages spoken. By 2033, this diversity, and the embrace of it, will showcase that Houston is about a lot more than oil. The retail market will be more sophisticated, and local designers and boutiques will be better known globally."
ROBERT C. ROBBINS, M.D.
President and CEO, Texas Medical Center
"While we may not see a clone of Ted Williams playing Major League Baseball by 2033, I believe advances in stem cell and regenerative medicine will allow physicians to replace damaged and diseased organs with laboratory-grown organs produced using a patient’s own stem cells.
"Bioengineers will be able to replicate ears, kidneys, and livers using incredible innovations like 3-D printing, where cells can be sculpted into any number of body parts.
"Health care will become entirely individualized, focusing on a person’s unique DNA sequence and disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cells. Providers will use this information to develop tailored health care strategies and drug compounds to minimize illnesses and diseases.
"To offset conventional human nature, e-technology will step into the role of “life coach” providing goals, tips, and reminders for people to walk those extra 2,000 steps, take their cholesterol medication, schedule a colonoscopy, and eat more vegetables.
"This “artificial intelligence” will work hand-in-hand with health care providers to create optimal health care solutions for individuals, as well as communities.
"At same time, public health policy officials will struggle with complicated and controversial issues surrounding the use of personal health information and privacy. Tough decisions will be made about who can have access, how, and why.
We'll also face ethical and sociological concerns about genetic testing and personalized medicine, and confront unimagined implications and consequences of these new frontiers. "
Mayor of Houston
"In the next 20 years, Houston will be bigger in terms of outward migration. We’ll continue to advance across the prairie, but we'll also be denser. We’ll be growing out and growing up.
"We’ll continue to grow as an international city and a significant portion of our population will be foreign-born. We're already the dominant city on the Gulf Coast, but we’ll have an even larger presence as a destination city.
"We will have completed our Bayou Greenways project, connecting our walkways to create one of the largest hike and bike trails for residents and visitors to enjoy.
"Houston will also have a fully functioning extensive light rail system with service to both airports, as well as a commuter rail."
Houston mayoral candidate 2013
"By the year 2033, a visit to Houston will be on everyone’s bucket list.
"With forward-thinking leadership, our city will become a true international destination, and diversity and acceptance will continue to be our enduring strengths.
"Houston will attract new entrepreneurs, innovators and tourists from all over the world, and expand its role as a catalyst for invention, art, cuisine and economic prosperity.
"That applies not just for the U.S., but for the entire globe. When world leaders look for inspiration, they will look to us.
"Twenty years from now, Houston will have a public education system that’s the envy of the world. Every Houstonian will have access to opportunities to achieve success right here at home and not have to seek it out elsewhere.
"By 2033, Houston will be a global center of trade, tourism and quality of life."
President, University of Houston
"Since Houston’s humidity tends to fog up crystal balls, looking 20 years into the future is challenging. It’s also daunting because Houston isn’t as predictable as many cities. We often play by a different set of rules, following our own vision of what’s important and how to achieve it.
"As we all move forward in a knowledge-based economy, I do believe higher education will continue to play a vital role in shaping the city’s character and contributing to its success.
"Dramatic, even disruptive, changes in technology may transform the nature of how we teach, likely moving toward more creative delivery models, with considerably more students successfully educated through customized hybrid classes combining the best of digital and live instruction.
"Academic affiliations, shared “superstar” faculty and joint research projects with partner universities overseas will increase, especially here in the internationally-aligned city of Houston.
"UH will also collaborate even more closely with the private sector to ensure its employment-oriented graduates have the skill sets in demand by employers. Along with pure research as an end in itself, we'll also focus on meeting the needs of industry and commerce as well as addressing specific problems confronting our community.
"In doing so, UH will be celebrated as The Energy University and one of the premier educational institutions in the country, possibly the world.
"Some things will change, perhaps UH will field a Rollerball team, or the periodic table will add a dozen new elements, but one thing will remain constant: the University of Houston’s commitment to serve the city whose name it proudly shares."
Director, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
"Museums and cultural organizations all over the world are adopting a new emphasis on visitor engagement and an active experience of the visual and performing arts, and Houston will be no exception.
"Twenty years from now, I can imagine Houston, with all of its great visual and performing arts institutions, forging an especially vibrant crossroads for a newly energized and engaged public.
"I envision a Museum District bustling with tourists and Houstonians, who will come out to dine, see films, go to exhibitions and enjoy performances indoors and out.
"Business people downtown, employees and visitors to the Texas Medical Center, local families, and members of the university communities will drop in after work to get together, have a meal or attend a program, not just during the day, but at night as well.
"Houston has the vision, the momentum and the philanthropic capacity to make our cultural portals places where the city’s diverse communities encounter each other, generate energy and ideas, and form new relationships with each other and with their city."
CHARLES A. MCCLELLAND, JR.
Police chief, Houston Police Department
"Based on the way this city has progressed in the past 20 years, I predict that by the year 2033, Houston will be the second-largest city in the U.S.
"I believe that we'll have true mass transit. High speed rail will run from the suburbs to the city along with high speed rail to both major airports, and we'll be using these modes of transportation as much as automobiles on the freeway.
"The Houston Police Department will have grown in size to more than 10,000 police officers, and Houston will still be one of the safest, largest cities in America.
"As far as entertainment and leisure, the Houston Texans will have won at least two Super Bowls, the Houston Rockets will have won one major championship and Houston will have one of the largest venues in performing arts.
"Representatives from the Hispanic community will dominate local politics, and several Hispanic mayors will have governed us. We’ll also have had several Hispanic police chiefs by 2033, along with several female chiefs."
Restaurateur and owner, Tony's
"Houston is one of our country's leading cities for opportunity. And it's also one of the nation's bright spots for the arts, and for food and wine culture.
"Twenty years from now, Houstonians will look back and remember the early 21st century as the years the rest of the U.S. began to take notice of the emerging, vibrant food scene here.
"Today, it’s possible for me to import so many ingredients from Italy for my restaurants. That wasn't possible 20 years ago. By 2033, Houstonians will no longer have to stand for the poor imitations of Italian food that we still see so much of.
"This trend will continue, and authenticity and purity of ingredients will be the benchmarks for great Italian cuisine and fine dining in general."
JOANNE KING HERRING
Former honorary consul of Pakistan and Morocco, socialite, fashion plate, former TV personality and part of the 1979 Houston City Magazine article
"Houston is the city of snap, crackle and pop.
"Snap: Houston 2013 is a city of smart, practical innovative businesses with opportunities in every business sector, no Harvard degree required. Men of honor, honesty, faith and family like Jim Hackett and Larry Brookshire run our corporations. Good government, guarded expertly by Mayor Annise Parker, sustains this city with freedom from stultifying taxes and regulations and a lack of zoning.
"Crackle: In 2013, we have a sparkling restaurant scene. Some are so avant-garde they're beyond my culinary capability. Others challenge New York and whip the socks off Los Angeles. Houston has a wide spectrum of arts from our tunnel at the MFA and the Rothko Chapel, to wonderful offerings along the bayou, and the Houston Art Car Parade.
"We have superlative music like the Houston Grand Opera, TUTS and Houston Ballet all overseen by Franci Crane and a coterie of caring socialites. Every night there's a grand and glittering fundraiser for great causes, overseen by queen Margaret Alkek Williams.
"Houston is a fashion fantasia with Tootsies, Bulgari and others providing the flourishes that has catapulted our glamor queens like Susan Krohn to the pages of international magazines. We are a kaleidoscopic city providing all the color and sparkle of the Land of Oz.
"Pop: It all pops when we realize our young still dream of New York City and we're still not perceived as the cosmopolitan city that we are. By 2033, that will change. In the next 20 years, our good economics, if nothing else, will entice the weary world to dance over the rainbow to the pot of gold that is Houston. And where will I be in 2033? Up on my cloud with my harp."
Chairman and CEO, Wulfe & Co.
"By 2033, the population of Houston will have doubled and Houston will become much more densified, particularly inside the Loop, with mid and high-rise residential and office developments. One and two story homes will only exist in deed restricted areas or adjacent municipalities.
"Our Central Business District will continue to grow and expand with the addition of many more office and residential towers to the south and west toward Midtown, Greenway Plaza and Uptown. Our near East End will transform from industrial/warehouse use to residential.
"Pedestrian friendly mixed-use projects with inviting and pleasurable people places will flourish with residential, retail and office components. Retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues will be an integral part of the new mixed-use complexes.
"Main Street will become the major linkage and connector for the Central Business District, Museum District, educational institutions, parks, zoo, medical center and sports venues.
"As Houston densifies with living and working lifestyle developments, parks and green space will be in demand and incorporated into the new projects. Our bayous will become linear parks stretching across Houston’s diverse neighborhoods and become a catalyst for new developments eager to capture their amenities and lifestyle opportunities.
"While much of this new activity will be within our urban core, our explosive suburban growth in all directions will continue and entail more new planned communities and suburban work complexes.
"Houston will be a world-class metropolis and continue to appeal and attract people and businesses because of quality of life and job opportunities. Our well-established image of an open, friendly and welcoming environment coupled with our can-do attitude will continue to foster our enviable growth and committed ability to adapt to an ever-changing world and evolve into the city of the future."
Chairman, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
"I see excellent growth in both Houston and the region over the next 20 years.
"This will lead to improved co-operation between governmental entities to manage this growth efficiently and responsibly.
"Houston will become increasingly more diverse as the city becomes the U.S. gateway to Mexico, and Central and South America for trade, financial services, tourism and regional co-ordination. As a result, Houston’s economy will become more diversified.
"While our region grows, the inner city will experience a renaissance and will grow even faster, facilitated by a robust transit network connecting major employment, work and living centers, and led by a thriving arts community and expanding green space."
DR. JILL CARROLL
Houston-based scholar, religious studies
"By the year 2033, I think Houston will be twice as big as it is now both in terms of population and geographic size.
"These facts in themselves will demand that the best energies of the city's citizens are harnessed to address the major challenges that come to communities of that size such as transportation, jobs and quality of life including quality of air and water.
"Other challenges will include legal systems maximized to scale so that justice and the rule of law is extended to all citizens, a manageable cost of living, decent educational systems and vibrant cultural traditions.
"Chief among all these necessities for the Houston of 2033, if this city is to thrive, is an extraordinary capacity for accommodating differences in religion, culture, language, traditions, background, countries of origin and lifestyle. All of it!
"This is Houston's destiny, and it is the destiny of most cities in our country. We're all destined to share our city, our country and our world in the midst of sometimes radical difference.
"This is the central challenge of our era. I believe the people of the greater Houston area already have a leg up on what it takes to meet this challenge."
PROFESSOR STEPHEN L. KLINEBERG
Co-director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University
"Houston, true to its inveterate optimism and can-do spirit, will have found innovative ways to respond effectively to the three fundamental challenges it is facing today.
"First, knowing full well that human resources are now far more important than natural resources in building prosperity, Houston will have become a full-fledged “learning society.” It will have found a way to provide truly universal access to high-quality education from pre-K through college and into lives of continual learning.
"Second, Harris County will have added another one million people, another 3.5 million in the greater metropolitan area as a whole, but thanks to its foresight and dedication, it will have found ways to guide that growth. Although the region will be more crowded, it will also be greener, healthier, and more beautiful than it is today, well positioned to attract the most innovative companies and talented individuals, who are freer than ever before to choose where they would like to live.
"Third, demography really is destiny. By 2033, non-Hispanic whites will see their share of the Harris County population drop from about a third today to less than a fifth, while the Latino population will have grown to represent almost two-thirds of all area residents.
"Because it made the critical investments in education and quality of place, and worked to strengthen its interethnic relationships, by 2033, Houston will be an equitable, inclusive and united multiethnic region, a major international player on the world stage and a model for what all of America could become as the 21st century unfolds."