Houston Public Library to Open New Public Plaza

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Houston Public Library to Open New Public Plaza

Southwest Airlines Placemaking Grant to Catalyze Revitalization in Downtown Houston
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 2:00pm

HOUSTON, Nov. 12, 2014 /3BL Media/ – The City of Houston, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) and the Project for Public Spaces have announced an effort   that will lead to a new vibrant place in downtown Houston and reimagine the  Central Library Plaza located between the Central Library and the Julia Ideson Building across the street from City Hall. A Heart of the Community grant from Southwest Airlines is the catalyst that will allow the Houston Public Library to implement its plan to redesign the space, turning it into a welcoming and vibrant extension of the buildings flanking the Plaza.  The concept of Placemaking will be at the center of the revitalization effort to turn the now underutilized space into an energetic hub which will spark social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits throughout the central business district.

Placemaking is a quiet movement that is revolutionizing cities across America and encouraging community participation in the design and programming of public spaces. The results of Placemaking, which can be seen at Houston’s Discovery Green and Market Square Park, show the potential for neglected spaces to be transformed into urban oases which will provide positive community impacts for generations to come. In 2011, after completion of several major Placemaking campaigns, PPS named Houston as the Placemaking Capital of North America. The Heart of the Community grant will further grow the movement of Placemaking in Houston and drive more people to participate in the process.

Through a full community process and unique Placemaking activation on the Central Library Plaza,  Houston Public Library can better continue its mission of providing resources, cultural programming and educational activities for the people of Houston. 

 “During the past decade, Houston has become known for its vibrant public spaces – areas where the community has room to thrive and grow,” said Annise D. Parker, Mayor of Houston. “This grant from Southwest Airlines creates another opportunity for us to continue guiding the development of this great American city. We are all excited to participate in the processes and witness the many benefits of Placemaking. Together we can save our public spaces.”

This is the second nationwide Heart of the Community grant to be announced in 2014, which creates a community collaboration among Southwest Airlines, selected local partner organizations, PPS – the pioneering nonprofit organization behind Placemaking. Southwest Airlines believes in connecting people with what’s important in their lives, and recognizes that these connections often happen in important places. With the Heart of the Community program, Southwest is acting on their vision to bring Placemaking to all cities where they fly, highlighting the importance of “Place” and a community’s need to support its residents. For the airline, Placemaking is more than “building” great destinations but rather, strengthening local communities. 

“We have a long history of serving the city of Houston, and the Heart of the Community grant is just one example of our commitment to the city,” said Teresa Laraba, Senior Vice President of Customers at Southwest Airlines. “When we began flying in 1971, Houston was one of our original three cities. Today, even as we serve more than 90 destinations, this community and its people remain extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to support these local efforts in hopes of creating a new gathering place in Houston to build resiliency in the already thriving community.”

Around the world, libraries serve as community hubs; they provide a space for people to gather and assemble without regard to class, color or economic status; they promote education and access to technology; and, they support the development of our youngest neighbors. This activation will augment the Library’s role as a downtown anchor and create even more reasons for the estimated 140,000 daily workers and other visitors to the corridor.

“We have seen again and again how Placemaking has been able to reshape and activate spaces in Houston,” said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of Libraries. “The strong support, project management expertise and technical assistance provided Southwest Airlines and the Heart of the Community program will create a lasting change in our downtown. I am excited to witness how an activated Central Library Plaza will bring our community together in new and exciting ways.”

As part of the Placemaking process, visitors to the farmers market have been engaging with Library staff on identifying the types of programs, activities and amenities they would like to see on the plaza – to refine the earlier Placemaking vision for the space. Library employees will continue this offering weekly at Central Library during the Farmers Market for anyone who is interested or wants to contribute to the process. Details with times and location will be shared on the Houston Library’s Facebook page.


About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. Serving more than seven million customers per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

About Southwest Airlines Co.
In its 44th year of service, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other air carriers with exemplary Customer Service delivered by nearly 46,000 Employees to more than 100 million Customers annually.  Southwest and wholly owned subsidiary AirTran Airways operate nearly 3,600 flights a day, serving 93 destinations across the United States and five additional countries.  Service to San Jose, Costa Rica, begins in March 2015, subject to government approvals.

Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent data, Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded. The Company operates the largest fleet of Boeing aircraft in the world, a majority of which are equipped with satellite-based WiFi connectivity while over the United States that enables video-on-demand and a free, live TV offering of 13 channels compliments of DISH.  Bags Fly Free® at Southwest Airlines (first and second checked pieces of luggage, size and weight limits apply), and there are never change fees, although fare differences might apply. In September 2014, the airline proudly unveiled Heart, a new aircraft livery, airport experience, and logo, showcasing the dedication of Southwest Employees to connect Customers with what’s important in their lives.

From its first flights on June 18, 1971, Southwest Airlines launched an era of unprecedented affordability in air travel described by the U.S. Department of Transportation as "The Southwest Effect," a lowering of fares and increase in passenger traffic wherever the carrier serves. With 41 consecutive years of profitability, Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world, known for a triple bottom line approach that contributes to the carrier's performance and productivity, the importance of its People and the communities they serve, and an overall commitment to efficiency and the planet. The 2013 Southwest Airlines One Report™ can be found at Southwest.com/citizenship.

Book Southwest Airlines' low fares online at Southwest.com or by phone at 800-I-FLY-SWA.

About Project for Public Spaces
Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Its pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs. PPS was founded in 1975 to apply and expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, the organization has completed projects in over 3000 communities in 43 countries and all 50 US states and are the premier center for best practices, information and resources on Placemaking.

Keywords: Volunteerism & Community Engagement | Heart of the Community | Houston Public Library | Philanthropy | Placemaking Capital of North America | Placemaking Grant | Southwest Airlines