A once-forgotten downtown Houston landmark will soon receive a glamorous makeover, courtesy of the Bayou City’s society queen and arts champion. Social icon Lynn Wyatt has committed $10 million to redevelop Jones Plaza; the new square will be appropriately named Lynn Wyatt Square For The Performing Arts.
The new Lynn Wyatt Square For The Performing Arts will include a performance lawn with flexible infrastructure for concerts and other free programs, a cascading water feature, trees and gardens for aesthetics and shade, a street theater, and a restaurant. The project is expected to break ground in August 2020.
“Because of her investment, pretty much this project is fully funded,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner at the announcement ceremony on October 7. Indeed, Wyatt’s gift is the core of a $29 million capital campaign to fund the transformation of the long-forgotten parcel of downtown real estate.
With $10 million committed by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority and an additional $5 million contributed by the Houston First Corporation, Wyatt’s gift will enable the project to start construction in the summer of 2020 and be complete in the summer of 2021, according to Houston First.
Wyatt, a renowned philanthropist, graciously blew kisses at the audience and was humble and humorous in her remarks. “I always say I was born, bred, and buttered in Houston. I have long been devoted to the arts because I believe that the arts, particularly the performing arts, are the soul of any city,” she said. “This is such a wonderful honor and I am delighted that this beautiful Square For The Performing Arts will be enjoyed by my fellow Houstonians and visitors long after I am gone.”
As previously reported, Houston First Corporation, under the leadership of chairman David Mincberg, selected architect Rios Clementi Hale Studios in 2018 to reimagine the plaza as a dynamic new space that would connect the district’s venues, create a strong identity and place, and revitalize the west side of downtown. Quite the transformation, considering the plaza has been known as a weekly party spot, a parking lot, and was once even derided as a “toilet” due to the trademark blue-tile walls.
Aside from being a downtown destination, the new square is further envisioned as a focal point for the Theater District. Seven of Houston’s most prestigious performing arts organizations — Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, Alley Theatre, Theater Under the Stars, Society for the Performing Arts, and Da Camera — are housed of the buildings in the Theater District.
“I’m a believer in the adage: a thriving arts culture is the cornerstone of a prosperous city,” said Turner. “And we are indeed. The transformation of this public space will not only serve as a cornerstone for downtown, but a dynamic epicenter of Houston’s cultural footprint. In recognition of her legacy of philanthropy, it is only fitting that this space be named after Houston’s greatest benefactor of the arts, Lynn Wyatt.”