At the center of inner-city Houston, Levy Park’s new appeal can be seen for miles.
After nearly 15 years of gradual renovation, the Upper Kirby park reopened Saturday to a sizable crowd of Houstonians flocking from several corners of the city.
With activities kicking off at 10 a.m., young families and their pets enjoyed face painting, workshops by local organizations, live concerts, food trucks and mural painting by local graffiti artist Gonzo.
The grand re-opening commenced with a ceremony of guest speakers. Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen and soon-to-be-retired Joe Turner of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, among others, expressed their gratitude for those responsible for the park’s redesign.
“This city is becoming an example to the nation,” Turner said. “It’s truly inspiring to look and see you all, so many Houstonians, enjoying the latest contribution to our city’s great, green space. Never before have Houstonians had so many options for places to gather together, to celebrate our heritage and diversity and to plan and find respite from a contentious world.”
The 5.2-acre plot was donated to the city by Wall Street investor and widely-known philanthropist Leon Levy in 1941. Extended members of the Leon family were present for the ceremonial ribbon cutting to commemorate the park’s opening.
Ken Levy, Leon Levy’s great nephew, recalled the park’s ever-shifting recreational purposes over the years.
“I remember when it was baseball park, and I remember when it was a dog park and not well-kept,” Levy said. “But what these people did, the numbers of people that have come out — it’s fabulous. It makes me feel so good that someone in our family did something like this and to see the name on it. This park will be enjoyed for many years to come and it’ll bring a bright spot to the name Levy, and I’m very proud.”
Spearheaded by the Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority, the new urban space cost $15 million. The Office of James Burnett implemented the landscape’s architectural design, while Natalye Appell and Associates Architects were responsible for the park’s pavilion. The redesign’s lead contractor was Burton Construction.
The park now features a children’s playground with a modern climbing wall and observation deck, an enclosed dog park, a performance pavilion, community gardens, a promenade and a large activity lawn.
In the name of conservancy, the park has preserved 30 live oak trees.
Among several families strolling throughout the park’s promenade, Michael Babajanov pointed out the children’s amenities and attractions to his two young sons, whom he brought from Bellaire to the reopening.
“It’s appropriate of how Houston is changing,” Babajanov said of the newly updated park. “The city is becoming a little bit more like New York, like L.A. It’s good that they’re trying to invest a bit more and trying their best to attract the younger crowd.”
Despite the drive, Babajanov intends to bring his children to the park regularly.
A woman who didn’t want to give her name trekked from West University, where she’s lived for over 60 years, to survey the new park, since there isn’t one in walking distance from her home.
“It’s a fabulous park, but they still need to be thinking about the senior citizens,” she said. “It’s a wonderful design for the children, but the children are not paying the taxes.”
Levy Park does, however, plan to have year-round programming for both adults and children, such as yoga, meditation, piano concerts, hula hooping and a Houston Public Library story hour.
A schedule for the park’s daily activities is listed on the Levy Park webpage.