When I look out my office window, I see the towering structures that make up the Texas Medical Center and take pride in the world-class research and clinical care that happen every day inside their walls. But I have to admit: I’ve been disappointed by what happens outside those walls.
Despite welcoming more than 100,000 workers here every day, our campus is lacking in vibrant, urban, outdoor activity. For too long, we’ve lacked the green space, bicycling infrastructure, and retail and entertainment offerings that are the hallmarks of any lively city space. That’s about to change.
But first, how’d we get here? In 1885, builders constructed the world’s first skyscraper in Chicago, and cities around the world followed suit, rapidly densifying major metropolitan areas. It’s an efficient model, but it comes at a cost: the concrete jungles gradually restricted light and air. Here in the medical center, we’ve become a victim of our own success. The collection of facilities we built to serve patients has crowded out much of our green space, an essential component of a healthy, vibrant, sustainable community.
Today, cities across the globe have recognized this oversight and are taking bold steps to create accessible green spaces that contribute to the health and well-being of the public. Houston’s philanthropic community and civic leaders are making strides to reclaim and energize our city with an increasing number of parks and a connected bayou greenway system. We’re doing our part by bringing more green space to our TMC campus and shifting our infrastructure emphasis from cars to people.
This year the TMC will launch its bike-share program and install 14 bike stations throughout the campus, in addition to financing three bike-share stations in the Museum District. When we shared our plans with our colleagues across the street at Rice University, they doubled the number of stations they planned for their campus.
But what we’re most excited about is completion of the initial design phase of TMC3, our new city center which will be a true “live, work, and play” environment. It marks the first time in our history of more than 70 years that we’re developing one campus to support multiple institutions.
The TMC3 campus—dubbed the “double helix” for its design that evokes the shape of a DNA molecule—stretches nearly 30 acres and will serve as the nerve center for collaboration and interaction. The base floor of the campus consists of three plazas filled with trees and vegetation, as well as restaurants, retail, commercial and entertainment space to support the community throughout the day and evenings.
The second floor contains shared laboratories so that member institutions can work together with each other and alongside industry experts.
The top of the double helix will be a park that rises 60 feet from the ground and features regular programming. We’ll provide the community with amenities such as walking and running trails, bocce courts, yoga, tai chi, chef gardens, reading hammocks, children’s education gardens, and more. The “helix” park will also bridge across to the bayou greenway system which will provide access points to the entire Houston community.
The campus and park will be beautiful, but that’s not the reason we’re building them. These amenities are essential if we want to attract and retain the millennials who will go on to become the intellectual cornerstone of our medical city.
We are just beginning our journey to transform the Texas Medical Center, and we will continue to work closely with our partners. I’m confident that before long, I’ll see something totally different when I gaze out my window across our bustling medical city.
William F. McKeon
President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center
University of Houston@UHouston
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