Planning & Capital Projects
The Downtown Houston+ Planning and Capital Projects (PCP) program consists of long-range planning initiatives, near-term urban design and improvement projects, and coordination with government agencies and private entities on projects that affect the future of Downtown. The program is guided by the primary objectives and projects identified in our organizational plans: the Strategic Alignment Plan and Plan Downtown.
In 2017 the Downtown District, in partnership with Central Houston, published Plan Downtown: Converging Culture, Lifestyle & Commerce.
Once an underutilized, work-driven central core that had seen its
better days, Downtown has again become the heartbeat of the Bayou City
and the region. Buzzing with development of all kinds— new hotels,
restaurant rows, luxury residential projects and convenient public
transportation options — the city center didn’t get to where it is today
Read the Plan
North Houston Highway Improvement Project
The North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) is a $7-billion, 24-mile, three-segment TxDOT project to rebuild IH-45 from Beltway 8 through Downtown. The project includes rebuilding IH-10 across northern Downtown and IH-69 from the Montrose bridge to the IH-10 interchange. NHHIP is a priority infrastructure and transportation planning initiative for Downtown Houston+. Our staff is collaborating directly with TxDOT, the City of Houston, and other entities on project implementation, including opportunities for public space and private redevelopment in proximity to the highway project.
Downtown Houston+ involvement with this project dates to the NHHIP’s first round of public meetings in October 2012. Our staff has convened adjacent Management Districts and major stakeholders as concepts for highway alignment are under consideration, including the reconnection of adjacent neighborhoods, the restoration of the urban street grid, and freeway caps. The freeway caps around the perimeter of Downtown stand to host ample green space and parks, which will collectively represent the Green Loop vision defined in Plan Downtown.
Office Conversion Study
With the flight to quality in Downtown Houston’s office market, coupled with the reduction in demand for office space due to the recent shift towards hybrid and remote work, older but non-historic office buildings constructed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are expected to experience tenancy challenges resulting in widespread vacancy and obsolescence. As with the redevelopment of historic structures, there are extensive and unique costs involved in office-to-residential, office-to-institutional, and other modes of adaptive reuse conversions. Critically, conversion costs occur on top of the base cost/investment in the pre-conversion structure and building owners will pay carrying costs during any adaptive reuse construction. The economic challenges of conversion will require an incentive program to encourage adaptive reuse in much the same way that historic structures receive tax credits for renovation, or through a program like the Downtown Living Initiative that incentivized the residential construction or conversion in the Downtown Houston market. Noting these challenges, the Downtown Redevelopment Authority (DRA) on behalf of Downtown Houston+ regards adaptive reuse as a pivotal redevelopment opportunity to advance Downtown Houston’s residential capacity and offerings, and to holistically reimagine Downtown’s underutilized or vacant office space.
To begin shaping an adaptive reuse incentive program, the DRA worked with a consultant to conduct a feasibility study of selected buildings located within the Downtown Houston boundaries of the DRA. This first phase of this process laid the groundwork for an Office Conversion Program, designed to incentivize the rehabilitation and repurposing of underutilized office space in downtown buildings within the boundaries of the DRA. The final feasibility study outlined economic, design, and engineering challenges to address programmatic reuse potential or the redevelopment opportunities inherent within each building envelope and the respective property including ground-level repositioning.
With the feasibility study completed, the DRA will propose an Office Conversion Program as part of phase two. The program will stimulate Downtown's economic vitality by incentivizing the conversion of underutilized office buildings into alternative uses within the DRA's boundaries. The completed study is intended to assist participating property owners in understanding potential project feasibility for multiple adaptive reuse scenarios once the program is formed, authorized by the DRA Board, and approved by Houston City Council. These scenarios will provide a means to identify and appropriately assess the efficacy of the currently known financing tools that may be utilized to bridge capital or operational funding gaps related to office building conversions.
Downtown Living Initiative
Since 2012, the Downtown Living Initiative (DLI) has promoted economic development and stimulated commercial activity through development incentives for selected multifamily residential mixed-use projects. The first phase of the program, DLI 1.0, offered qualifying projects up to $15,000 in tax rebates for each unit constructed in an approved, participating multifamily project. Conceived by Downtown Houston+ in partnership with the City of Houston, the program focused on project sites that were in proximity to non-office amenities and attractions, including Discovery Green, churches and schools, and sports venues.
Over the last decade, the DLI has yielded thousands of new residential units, and their tenancy success has nearly tripled the Downtown residential population since 2012.
The goals and incentives of the program’s next phase, DLI 2.0, will be defined and announced in 2023-2024.
More Space: Main Street 2.0
Downtown Houston+ is expanding the successful “More Space: Main Street” initiative into a permanent and visionary project in partnership with the city of Houston. Initially conceived to support local bars and restaurants during the early pandemic days, Houston City Council unanimously voted to permanently convert seven blocks of Main Street from Commerce to Rusk into a pedestrian promenade in March 2023. Downtown Houston+ has entered the planning phase for the next iteration of this project, aptly named “More Space: Main Street 2.0.” The project’s objectives are multifaceted, aiming to attract more visitors to the Downtown area, activate the public realm throughout the day and night, enhance mobility, ensure safety, and establish a vibrant identity for this stretch of Main Street. In Q4, the conceptual plan will be completed. To date, the plan includes repurposing the former vehicular lanes into dynamic public spaces by raising the roadway to sidewalk level to enhance accessibility. Additionally, new elements will be introduced, including more areas for seating, shade, events, and greening. The project will transition to a final design and engineering phase in 2024, and construction is planned for 2025. The timeline aims for completion before the FIFA World Cup 2026™ arrives in Houston.
Read More About More Space: Main Street 2.0
Downtown Pedestrian Lighting Study and Action Plan
Downtown Houston+ aims to enhance the vitality of the public realm in all ways, including lighting improvements. This Downtown Pedestrian Lighting Study was conducted throughout 2023 and included a Downtown-wide photometric analysis of existing lighting conditions along all sidewalks and a Night-time Vulnerability Assessment for especially well-trafficked and/or challenging areas of Downtown. The Study will result in a Lighting Action Plan which will have a set of recommendations for game-changing pedestrian lighting enhancements, including strategies for lighting murals around Downtown.
A link to the final study and action plan will be posted on the Downtown Houston+ website upon completion.
Warehouse Vision District Plan
The Warehouse Vision District Plan has conducted studies and assessed the upgrade of urban design, transportation, and infrastructural systems in the Warehouse District. As this area will be significantly impacted and transformed by the NHHIP, planning scenarios stand to define the path forward for this section of Downtown.
To date, there have been two public workshops and online surveys to identify the goals and aspirations of the Warehouse District stakeholders. The next phase of the plan will be determined in 2024.
Public Workshop #1 Presentation (August 2020)
Public Workshop #2 Presentation (March 2021)