Community leaders, artists and curious passers-by gathered on the Navigation Boulevard esplanade Tuesday for the unveiling of an art-filled pedestrian space many hope will become a new commercial and cultural hub for one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods.
"We've been working with a terrific team of artists and it's wonderful to see it all come together," said Jack Massing of The Art Guys, the noted Bayou City duo selected to lead and facilitate artistic efforts at the narrow boulevard park between St. Charles Street and the original Ninfa’s.
“What’s great about Houston today is that it’s mature enough now for a project like this to take hold. We have all these neighborhood interests not conspiring against each other, but working together to make the city a better place.”
An iron archway resembling papel picado marks the park's entrance across from the original Ninfa's.
With much of the landscaping underway, workers spent Tuesday installing an array of artist-designed amenities — benches, waste bins and bike racks by Anthony Thompson Schumate, solar power stations and LED street lamps by Metalab; and a massive anchor sculpture designed by Gary Sweeney to highlight the community’s close ties to the Port of Houston.
An iron archway designed to resemble papel picado marks the park's entrance at Delano Street, leading visitors to a cozy open space featuring a pair of concrete benches crafted in vintage faux bois style to resemble aged wood. Beneath a nearby row of oak trees, a large wooden deck is under construction for a future dining patio.
Clusters of market kiosks by Metalab and Merge Studios will dot the esplanade, carving out dedicated zones for a weekend market that kicks off in late fall.
In developing the park project, which was funded through a $5 million federal stimulus grant to improve neighborhood walkability, Hedy Wolpa with the Greater East End District told CultureMap that more than 100 meetings with area residents were held to ensure that all local voices were heard.
“Almost a third of East End residents bike, walk or use public transportation to get to work,” Wolpa explained. "As such, we've made sure to improve lighting and ramp accessibility all along this stretch of Navigation. We've worked with artists to create new bus shelters, seating and bicycle racks."
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park will take place Oct. 19 at the second annual East End Street Fest, which is expected to draw upwards of 10,000 attendees.