Game-changing new downtown plaza named for Houston icon Lynn Wyatt finally opens this week
After three years of construction and a COVID delay, the revamped Jones Plaza opens to the public September 22 with a new name, new features, and new spaces to celebrate Houston's vibrant arts scene.Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts is — fittingly — named for the Houston society icon and arts supporter.
The downtown spot held an official debut event, on Thursday, September 21, with a grand opening attended by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, namesake Wyatt herself, Houston First Corporation (HFC) chairman David Mincberg, and HFC president and CEO Michael Heckman, along with other public officials and leaders from Houston’s performing arts and business community.
The square blends spaces for performances with spots to gather and enjoy city life in downtown. The $26.5 million green space includes a flexible performance lawn for concerts and other free programs, a cascading water feature, accessible entries, gardens, trees, one-of-a-kind tête-à-tête rockers/seating, lighting and sound elements, and space for a future restaurant.
Mini murals created by Anat Ronen and Jessica Guerra (Guerra Girl) cover traffic boxes around the Square. HFC will maintain and operate the square, which will offer year-round programming inspired by Houston’s cultural diversity and the award-winning performing arts organizations surrounding the park.
“I love Houston, I love the arts and I absolutely love this beautiful square," said Wyatt in a press release announcing the official opening. "I am thrilled to support the team bringing people and the arts together in the heart of downtown. And to have my name on such an important piece of Houston, I am humbled and grateful, this truly touches my heart. I look forward to all the good this Square will do now and in the future for the people of this dynamic city and our world-class performing arts community."
Wyatt (pictured with Bun B; his wife, Queenie, and power publicist Mark Sullivan) is nationally renowned for her philanthroy. Photo by Alex Montoya
Opening weekend programming includes a number of activities, lawn games and live entertainment. One highlight is the interactive Bees experience. Created by Polyglot Theatre, a world-renowned Australian-based contemporary theatre company, the show offers a creative and fun way to explore the mysterious world of bees. Performances will take place Friday at 5 pm and 7 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm, 5 pm and 7 pm.
Nestled in the heart of the theater district, Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts sits adjacent to Jones Hall, home to the Houston Symphony and a base for Performing Arts Houston. This month, Jones Hall showcases its own $50 million renovation; the pair of projects offer Houstonians a re-energized corner of downtown.
One part pre-and-post-theater destination, one part downtown gathering space, the plaza invites downtown workers and visitors all day, every day to a long-forgotten parcel of downtown real estate.
A philanthropic legend in the Houston — and national — society and arts worlds, Wyatt committed $10 million to the Jones Plaza renovation, serving as the core of a $27 million capital campaign to fund the transformation.
An additional $10 million in funding came from the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, and a $5 million gift from Houston First Corporation. Additional funders include the Elkins Foundation, the Cullen Foundation, the Fondren Foundation, the Wortham Foundation, the Herzstein Foundation, Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, Vivian L. Smith Foundation, and the MD Anderson Foundation.
Los Angeles-based design firm Rios helmed the project, selected following an exhaustive selection process and design contest.
“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,” the always-charming Wyatt said during a christening ceremony in 2019. “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.”
A heartfelt standing ovation to Houston's iconic benefactor, indeed.