Rios Clementi Hale Studios to Lead Transformation of Theater District’s ‘Center Stage’

HOUSTON (April 24, 2018) – Houston First Corporation (HFC) announced the redevelopment plans for Jones Plaza, located in the heart of downtown’s Theater District. Following a rigorous selection process by HFC and other stakeholders, Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCHS), was selected to lead the project, which aims to revitalize the plaza into a vibrant public square for all visitors. The project will begin in May 2018 and is slated for completion in November 2020.

The redevelopment of Jones Plaza is a result of a partnership between the City of Houston, HFC, and the Downtown Redevelopment Authority. In addition to a $5 million commitment by Bob Eury on behalf of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, the team is joined by Jim and Whitney Crane and the 2017 World Champion Astros’ Foundation to lead a $20 million fundraising campaign, of which Crane has committed $1 million.

“Downtown is the heart of Houston. It is a vibrant, urban center comprised of talented people, leading corporations, premier performing arts companies, and dynamic public spaces. The redevelopment of Jones Plaza will only enhance downtown’s cultural footprint,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are grateful for the support of Houston First, the Downtown Redevelopment Authority and Jim and Whitney Crane for helping bring this vision to life.”

The redevelopment of Jones Plaza is an initiative first outlined in the 2015 Theater District Master Plan, intending to create an “immersive arts and culture environment where the vitality of the performing and visual arts spill into the streets, sidewalks and public spaces.” Describing the plaza as the ‘Center Stage’ of the District, HFC, Theater District Houston and Downtown Redevelopment Authority intend to transform the plaza into a welcoming, programmable venue for downtown visitors, residents and performing arts patrons. In September 2017, HFC issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to world-class design firms to develop a welcoming design for the 1.5-acre public plaza.

“Jones Plaza’s redevelopment will transform the space into the focal point of the Theater District as it was always intended. We look forward to redeveloping this area into a welcoming venue of its own that ignites excitement among Houstonians,” said David Mincberg, Board Chairman of Houston First Corporation.

Participating firms were tasked with developing a vibrant, programmable venue that can be used both day and night, reflecting its surrounding performing arts community. Submitted designs were encouraged to consider both visual and physical attributes, including easy access from all sides of the plaza; strong connections to nearby facilities; shade features like trees or structures; moveable seating and tables; a water element; an informal, flexible performance space; lighting elements and state-of-the-art technology; as well as the ability to incorporate artful elements into physical plaza features. 

In addition to outdoor elements, HFC envisions the Plaza to incorporate a 4,000-square-foot dining facility that offers a fast-casual counter and seated, upper casual service for breakfast, lunch, early, pre-theatre dinner, as well as post-theatre dessert and drinks. The facility will feature a transparent building skin with indoor and outdoor seating, a shared kitchen facility and restrooms, as well as private event spaces that can be rented to the public.

The RCHS team’s winning design concept is inspired by an urban choreography of movements and places around the plaza. As the focal point of the Theater District, the plaza will offer unique experiences and discovery with its various pathways and physical materials. It will also encourage the daily rhythms such as walking, talking, drinking, singing, and dancing – making Jones Plaza a social destination.

“Rios Clementi Hale Studios is thrilled to work with the Houston First Corporation, the City of Houston, and Theater District stakeholders on the redesign of Jones Plaza. For us, this is a remarkable opportunity to bring together the two things—public open space and venues for the performing arts—which have been at the heart of our most rewarding work. Our design concept, called Urban Choreography, celebrates this dual role which Jones Plaza will play in Downtown Houston. It must be an inviting green oasis that contributes to the daily life of downtown residents, workers and visitors—and at the same time, it must flexibly accommodate a wide range of cultural programming and special events," said Nate Cormier, ASLA, Principal-in-Charge, Rios Clementi Hale Studios.