Thoughts on ULI's bold Astrodome proposal
|My own snapshot of the old grey lady on a rainy day as I left the ULI event.|
I'm not going to go a lot here into the details of the proposal they labeled a "Grand Civic Space" - the Chronicle and CultureMap have that well covered, including a supportive quote from me in the front page Chronicle story. The complete presentation slide deck has also been posted online here. Here are my thoughts on aspects of it:
- Brilliant putting 1,500 to 2,000 parking spaces in two levels at the bottom of the dome's bowl, which makes it a lot easier to sell to the Texans and Rodeo. In general, they said they bent over backwards trying to accommodate their needs, as well as the OTC.
- They smartly called for refreshing the different tenet agreements at NRG Park, rather than just trying to stay within their limits that never envisioned re-purposing the dome.
- Clever idea of making a good part of the interior green space removable like the turf trays at NRG Stadium. That allows it to be converted to hard floor space for events like the OTC, or a dirt floor for the Rodeo.
- They did look at using it for fixed-seating concerts/events, but determined there were already plenty of venues in Houston for that, so that functionality was not included. There certainly may still be concerts in there, but they will be more of the festival lawn variety.
- They very explicitly did not recommend a replacement for the NRG/Reliant Arena, whose functionality they believe can be included inside the revamped Astrodome. Boom - $150 million saved right there! That may give the Rodeo a little heartburn, but - as I've said before - it's the right call.
- In any discussions of finances for this, that $150 million savings of an Arena replacement should absolutely be factored in, including communications with the public. They mentioned a ballpark potential cost number of $200 to $300 million (a bargain compared to similar scale projects elsewhere, they said), which means the Arena savings gets us more than halfway there!
- They believe it might be possible for operating costs to be covered by revenues, so it won't be an ongoing burden. The capital costs are the trickier part, although they laid out a lot of options there.
Update: A video of the complete ULI panel presentation has now been posted online here.