Houston’s urban park is a great lesson for what collaboration can do

The purpose of Discovery Green, the subject of this month’s Uniquely Houston, is “to provide an uncommonly beautiful, urban green space in the heart of Houston.”


It seems clear 12 years after city officials acquired a portion of the land to be used for this space that the goal has been accomplished. Discovery Green truly is an urban green space, a source of health and “a window into the incredible diversity of talents and traditions that enrich life in Houston.”
Those words in Discovery Green’s mission statement offer a glimpse at what makes this nearly 12-acre parcel of land so special. And it is evidence of what can happen when leaders come together in a spirit of collaboration.


Urban park spurs economic growth
Discovery Green has been a catalyst for more than $500 million in downtown Houston development projects that specifically note the park’s creation as an impetus for the dramatic investments, according to a study by New York-based Project for Public Spaces. This includes the creation of the Embassy Suites Hotel, One Park Place Luxury Apartment Building and the Hess Tower.
The study also found nearly $1 billion in downtown development nearby Discovery Green since the park was announced in 2006.
“Discovery Green has caused land prices around the convention center to skyrocket to between $200 and $300 a square foot,” says Stephen Lewis, deputy director of the city’s Department of Convention and Entertainment Facilities.
Finally, the study found that media and advertising contributed an estimated $7.5 million in sponsorship value to local outlets.
It all happened because a group of philanthropists led by Maconda Brown O’Connor and Nancy G. Kinder approached then Mayor Bill White with the idea of turning the space into an urban park.
The mayor agreed and became a strong advocate of a public-private partnership between the city of Houston and the new nonprofit organization, the Houston Downtown Park Conservancy, which ultimately became Discovery Green Conservancy. And now it’s a place where people can come and find something, no matter what they might be looking for.


Do it together
The odds are that you have enjoyed some time at Discovery Green — whether it was meeting a client or hanging out with your family. You probably were not thinking about business when you were there, but it does serve as a great lesson on what can happen when you work with people to accomplish a goal.
When you’re at the office, you frequently work closely with your management team or the leaders of your key clients. But don’t neglect the value of bringing other people into the conversation. The people who work on the front lines have ideas that may not have occurred to you. They can bring a fresh perspective that gives your project or idea a boost.
You can also reach out to community organizations and nonprofits and bring your talents together to accomplish great things. You have much to offer as a leader, but when you are open to integrating ideas from others, the sky is the limit. ●