Mandell Park is 1.22 acres surrounded by Bonnie Brae, Mandell and Richmond Avenue in Houston's Museum District. The property was originally half residential (Bonnie Brae side) and half commercial (Richmond side). In the 1980s, the City of Houston purchased and cleared the site in order to build a public library. When a better site for the library was found, the site was abandoned. It soon became an eyesore, as it became a dumping ground for old furniture and trash and became overgrown with weeds and unruly trees.
The southern half of the site was adopted by local residents and the Castle Court Neighborhood Association. The accumulated trash was removed and overgrown trees and bushes were trimmed and the grass mowed. Over the next 20 years, the site was maintained by the neighborhood association.
In 1992, an organic community garden was established, eventually named "Meredith Gardens" and has been in full, continuous operation since. These gardens are an Urban Harvest affiliate and have been beautifully maintained by volunteer gardeners.
In 2004, the property was transferred from the City of Houston Library Department to the Parks and Recreation Department. Following this transfer, the City cleared and remediated the commercial portion of the site. Due to the City's budget constraints, a citizen's group was needed to continue the improvement and maintenance of the property. Thus, the Friends of Mandell Park (FOMP) was formed. From 2004 to 2014, the FOMP raised over S1 million through plant sales, galas, grant applications, and other activities.
The original concept for the Mandell Park Master Plan was developed during a modified design charrette with fourth-year University of Houston architectural design students paired with professional design firms. Organized by Advisory Board Member, Professor Rafael Longoria, the competition consisted of six student teams. Each group developed a conceptual design and provided the Board of Directors of FOMP with magnificent designs from which one was selected as the winner with input incorporated from the public.
The Asakura Robinson Company, a design and landscape architecture company, was chosen to develop the full master plan based upon the winning concept. Known for creating "beautiful, sustainable people places," Asakura Robinson's work exemplifies the Friends of Mandell Park’s vision for the space.
In August, 2014, the Master Plan was completed and Mandell Park was reopened as an inventive, integrated park space with a community garden, mixture of native plants, trees and grasses to attract birds and butterflies and a host of special features to attract visitors. It is used by the area residents and people from all over the city for events, picnics and a nice place to visit. The FOMP continues to maintain the park and facilities, manage the community garden, and plan events.
Thank you to all those who helped exceed the goal of raising $1 million to renovate Mandell Park. Naming opportunities are still available and fundraising continues for maintenance of the park. Go to the DONATE tab for more information on how you can be part of this incredible story.