Roaring Success

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Like the bright lights of Broadway, Houston’s downtown is becoming a beacon of culture and excitement.

From the new state-of-the-art Hobby Performing Arts Center to Bayou Place and from Sesquicentennial Park to the new downtown stadium, Houston is a prime example of downtown revitalization.

"If the past 12 months are any indication, I think Houston has a really exciting year ahead. I don’t really see any slowing of downtown development," said Jordy Tollett, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The Ballpark at Union Station is really taking shape. Bayou Place is drawing huge crowds. The Theater District continues to bring great shows to Houston, and on any given evening you will find people parking their cars and riding the new downtown trolleys to hot new restaurants."

In 1999, the Texaco Grand Prix will be back and will be a great success again. We’ll be moving into a new Visitors Information Center at City Hall, and we’ll continue to work hard on bringing the Olympics to Houston for 2012. And, of course, the Houston Industries Power of Houston is turning into a great annual event.

Tollett said he believes conventions will have a major impact this year.

"October’s World Energy congress was just the start. We’ve got the National Urban League and the NAACP conventions coming to Houston. The annual International Quilt Show always is a huge economic boost for the city and Offshore Technology Conference continues to regain momentum," Tollett said.

Downtown Houston is exploding as a residential area as well.

"The loft apartments downtown are leasing and selling at a premium, and the historic Rice Hotel is doing well," said Barbara Mendel, spokeswoman for the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "There is so much going on it is hard to keep up."

Houston is experiencing a renaissance with the new additions. Recently opened, Bayou Place is an entertainment complex complete with the Angelika Film Center and Cafe, restaurants, live music and clubs. The Ballpart at Union Station, the new home of the Astros, is under construction and scheduled for completion in time for opening day 2000.

And with the Music Hall a thing of the past, the new, $75-million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts will contain two theaters – one seating more than 2,500, the other large enough for a crowd of 500. The facility also will include a restaurant.

Bayou Place quickly has become a major force in Houston’s downtown entertainment industry. An entertainment complex that has emerged from the old Albert Thomas Convention Center, Bayou Place is almost totally occupied.

The complex is complete with the cafes, restaurants, the Angelika Film Center, an eight-screen art cinema, and the Aerial Theater, a 50,000-square-foot multipurpose concert and performance hall.

Jackie Alfred, executive director of the Theater District Association, believes Bayou Place has had an overall economic impact on the city totaling $240 million. She predicts these figures have the potential of increasing by as much as 50 percent as it grows.

Developed by the Cordish Co., details of the second phase of Bayou Place have been kept under wraps.

"A primary effort at Bayou Place is to market existing tenants and resources. One area of major concentration is on the ever-increasing population of Houstonians who work or live in or near downtown," Cohn said. "We also are beginning to explore the many potential uses of the versatile Aerial Theater for non-performance events, such as benefits, galas and corporate events."

Potential endless

"The entertainment potential of Bayou Place, with its contribution to the growing Houston Theater District and the revitalization of downtown Houston, is endless."

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