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After a nationwide search, officials with nonprofit Houston Botanic Garden just named West 8, an award-winning international urban design and landscape architecture firm, to lead the master plan development for the city's newest green space on the Glenbrook Golf Course property, a 120-acre tract of public land in southeast Houston just outside the 610 Loop in the area between downtown and Hobby Airport

"Our long-term vision is for Houston's botanic garden to be among the nation's best in terms of its beauty, educational value and contributions to the vitality of our community," Nancy Abendshein, chairman of the board of Houston Botanic Garden, said in a statement. "We believe we have chosen a firm that can help us realize that vision and we are excited to get that process underway."

West 8, based in the Netherlands and New York City, offers 25 years of experience and an international team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers. The firm is well known in the United States for such projects as Governors Island Park — a 172-acre former military base in New York Harbor that is now a public oasis of green space — and Longwood Gardens, a 1,077-acre botanic garden located on the former du Pont Estate in Kennett Square, Penn.

Houston Botanic Garden officials state they will be seeking input from nearby communities throughout the entire master planning process, as well as from stakeholders across the city. The first community meeting is targeted for mid-May, with a date and location to be announced.

In January, Houston City Council approved a contract with the Houston Botanic Garden for a 30-year lease of the Glenbrook Golf Course property. The organization must meet a $20 million fundraising goal by the end of 2017 to take control of the property. After that, the agreement includes provisions for two 30-year renewal options.

Houston Botanic Garden officials point out the improved Sims Bayou that bisects the property as just one of they amenities for the future garden center. They state the old natural channel on the northern boundary of the property allows for special design elements, as well as a variety of educational opportunities about the local ecosystem. The site also has an abundance of mature trees.

Cost estimates for the nature center are now estimated at about $40 million for "Phase I," with other phases to come as the garden "grows" as Jeff Ross, president of Houston Botanic Garden, puts it.

The mission of Houston Botanic Garden is to establish and sustain a premier botanic garden that will promote public appreciation and understanding of plants, gardens and conservation of the natural world.

Culture Map  BY BARBARA KUNTZ        4.14.15 | 3:27 pm