Despite COVID-19 and an economic downturn, efforts to advance the construction of community performance space near the Westbury neighborhood have progressed.
The Brays Oaks Management District, one of 53 management districts in the Greater Houston Area that encourages economic development, has begun leading the master planning process for part of the former Shell Gasmer Technology site Center. Another part of the 29-acre site will house the Levitt Pavilion Houston and will be managed by the non-profit organization Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston, which will help produce an annual series of free professional concerts.
“The Brays Oaks Management District is very interested in the opportunity Levitt Pavilion provides for economic revitalization, which is a key part of its mission,” said Howard Sacks, president of Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston.
In September, the management district announced that Austin-based Lionheart, a planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm, would be working on the master plan. The master plan will focus on building, landscaping and engineering concepts, officials said.
Of the entire Gasmer property at 5521 Gasmer Drive, 3 acres are selected for the Levitt Pavilion with space for 5,000 attendees to congregate. What remains uncertain is how much of the remaining 26 acres will be used for stormwater retention and how much the City of Houston will leave Levitt Pavilion Houston for other amenities, Sacks said.
This remaining land is what Lionheart now plans.
“You could reuse existing structures,” Sacks said. “For example, you could take the 10,000 square feet [administration] building on the far north facing Gasmer and turn it into the Levitt and Willow Waterhole Greenway Visitor Center. You can take the 100ft Spindletop type derrick or the 120ft gantry crane and integrate them into the new campus.
The 3 acres to be used by Levitt Pavilion are being designed by Houston-based Studio RED Architects, whose designs will be further refined pending feedback from the master planning process, Sacks said.
As well as repurposing buildings and structures, the masterplan will also integrate with Willow Waterhole Greenway, a 280-acre development in the Westbury area providing recreation and flood mitigation space, which sits next door.
“The big design is that when this Shell property is rebuilt with Levitt Pavilion, it will feel like a seamless transition from the park to this property,” said Bill Burhans, president of the Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy.
To pay for the masterplan design work, Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston is more than halfway to its goal of raising $100,000, Sacks said.
Meanwhile, design work on Lionheart is expected to take the next few months. During this time, residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback at two upcoming community meetings, although the dates have not been set.
With input from residents, the master planning process will determine the price of construction, Sacks said.
There will then be a 12- to 18-month fundraising campaign to raise those funds, Sacks said. The best-case scenario would be to launch a fundraising campaign by mid-2022, though that timeline could change, he said.
Meanwhile, since the original lease agreement — between Friends of the Levitt Houston Pavilion, the City of Houston, and the Levitt Foundation — targeted a pavilion location adjacent to South Post Oak Boulevard when it was written, this agreement has yet to be revised to name the place as well. as the responsibilities of each party.
The move to the new location came after the Harris County Commissioners Court in February 2018 approved an $870,000 study exploring the feasibility of extending the Fort Bend toll to connect to the southwest corner of the loop. 610. Going forward with this extension would have taken the toll directly through the Westbury district as well as onto the Willow Waterhole Greenway.
After a significant pushback from residents of the Westbury neighborhood, the Harris County Commissioners Court ended up voting unanimously on September 29, 2020 to completely suppress any future study of a toll road extension. However, the change in site plans for Levitt Pavilion Houston had already gone into effect at that time, Sacks said.
“After considerable conceptual work for the construction of the Levitt Pavilion Houston, there is [at the old location]we had no choice but to abandon the site and look elsewhere,” Sacks wrote in an email to Community Impact Journal.
Construction is expected to take a year after the completion of the fundraising campaign.
Once construction is complete, the new Levitt Pavilion site would be managed through partnerships between three separate entities: Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston, Levitt Foundation and the City of Houston.
The Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston would run the venue year-round, along with the City of Houston, and produce 50 free professional concerts in a variety of musical genres.
While the City of Houston would be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the facility, the Levitt Foundation would provide seed funding and annual operating grants, as well as technical support and assistance, according to the Levitt Pavilion Houston website. .