Buffalo Bayou East
MVVA created a detailed Master Plan for Houston’s Buffalo Bayou East that reinvigorates the waterway while connecting it to a set of surrounding neighborhoods lacking easy access to nature and public space. Bald cypress line the water’s edge where kingfishers and osprey make their home, as the Bayou curves for four miles through The Greater East End and Fifth Ward, draining nearly 500 square miles of watershed to Galveston Bay. Hurricane Harvey, which hit in 2017 during the master planning process, caused catastrophic erosion in the Bayou, proving how connected the natural systems of Houston are, and how the rapid growth of the city impacts its most vulnerable neighborhoods.
The master plan aims to bring regional equity to open space investment in Houston’s extensive network of bayous. It offers a vision for 415 acres of open space connected by over 36 miles of trails, with significant mixed-income neighborhood development.
Building on over 20 years of Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s work with the East End and Fifth Ward neighborhoods, the master plan team considered community concerns and aspirations. Over 40,000 connections were made through social media; over 500 people attended five major community workshops; and a variety of other events, exhibits and communications helped bring the Bayou, so long hidden in plain sight, to the forefront of people’s minds.
Tony Marron Park will be the recreational core of the East Sector, where the plan also calls for improving existing parks, developing a new mixed-income neighborhood, and creating seamless connections from adjacent communities to the Bayou’s waterfront. This park will be an anchor for future ecological and urban access improvements along the bayou.
The emphasis on resilience, environmental equity, access, and multi-modal connectivity make the plan a model for the greater Houston area as it continues to come to terms with its underlying environmental challenges.
A new model mixed-income neighborhood, developed by Utile on land owned by BBP, will offer affordable housing for residents that might otherwise be displaced. Emphasis is on connections to the existing neighborhoods and access to open space.
The central idea of the master plan was to develop a series of hyper-connected open spaces of different sizes, characters, and functions that will collectively provide the same features and amenities as a large regional park.