Park Game Changer

Goodbye golf, hello world class greenspace? Houston Botanical Garden plans speed forward with land secured

Goodbye golf, hello world class greenspace? Botanical Garden on tap

Glenbrook Golf Course Houston sign
Promoters of the Houston Botanic Garden now have a long-term lease to possibly establish the center on the site of Glenbrook Golf Course. Friends of Glenbrook Park & Golf Course/Facebook

A botanical garden could sprout on the site of one of Houston's seven municipal golf courses.

Houston City Council's approved a contract with the Houston Botanic Garden for a 30-year lease of the Glenbrook Golf Course property, a 120-acre tract of public land in southeast Houston just outside the 610 Loop in the area between downtown and Hobby Airport. The organization must meet a $20 million fundraising goal by the end of 2017 to take control of the property. After that, the agreement includes provisions for two 30-year renewal options.

 Cost estimates for the nature center are now estimated at about $40 million for "Phase I," with other phases to come as the garden "grows." 

"We are very grateful to the mayor and city council for this opportunity," Jeff Ross, president of Houston Botanic Garden, the nonprofit dedicated to establishing a premier botanic garden in Houston, said in a statement. "Now that we have a site, we can move forward with the master planning process and with our outreach to the philanthropic community."

Cost estimates for the nature center are now estimated at about $40 million for "Phase I," with other phases to come as the garden "grows."

Ross said his organization is now conducting a national search to select the landscape architectural firm to create the master plan for the garden. Houston Botanic Garden directors will also seeking input from residents in the communities near the garden site and a variety of other stakeholders. 

Glenbrook Golf Course opened in 1924 with nine sand greens as Rio Rita Country Club. The city later acquired the property and established it as an 18-hole municipal course. The course is still owned by the city but is operated by Lopez Golf Management.

Glenbrook Golf Course is bisected by the now-expanded Sims Bayou, while the original channel serves as the northern boundary. These waterways, along with the abundance of trees on the site, offer "opportunities for special design elements as well as a variety of educational opportunities about the local ecosystem," Ross said.

"A botanic garden will add significantly to the quality of life for all Houstonians, especially our school children," Nancy Abendshein, chairman of the Houston Botanic Garden board, said. "We will create an educational and cultural experience that will delight and enrich everyone who visits."

While Houston has many beautiful gardens and green spaces, Abendshein said a botanic garden is unique in that its emphasis on education, conservation and scientific research in addition to beautiful plant displays.

"Botanic gardens are plant collections that celebrate natural beauty while increasing our knowledge of the natural world," she said.

In related news, city council members also approved a 30-year lease with the Houston Golf Association for the historic Gus Wortham Park Golf Course. The organization plans to raise up to $15 toward the restoration and renovation of this property. City leaders stipulated the association must meet a $5 million goal by the end of the year to retain the lease.

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