Avenida Houston: A Front Door to the City

The city of Houston recently celebrated a number of milestones: hosting Super Bowl LI, breaking its record of visitors to the city in 2016 and setting a new convention sales record for the second straight year, to name a few. One of the attractions that has allowed Houston to position itself as a host destination for a variety of events is its new convention center district, "Avenida Houston," which opened in December 2016. The campus includes the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB), Discovery Green park, Hilton Americas-Houston and the Marriott Marquis. On a recent trip to Houston, I was able to see firsthand why this new area in the downtown area draws both attendees in town for a meeting as well as locals looking to grab a drink after work.

In an attempt to transform the convention center and its surrounding area into a "front door" to the city, $175 million was invested into reimagining the area. The project included the renovation of the convention center and the addition of the Partnership Tower building (housing Houston First, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Sports Commission), a 1,900-space garage and a 97,000-square-foot pedestrian plaza in front of the convention center. More than 12 public art installations by local artists were introduced. Five restaurants, including one located on the first floor of the convention center, were built along the boulevard that fronts the GRB. Year-round programming was developed on the plaza outside of the convention center as well as across the street at Discovery Green, a 12-acre park that is home to public art and free events.

The newest addition to Avenida Houston is the Marriott Marquis, which opened in December 2016. Connected to the GRB, the property offers 1,000 guest rooms and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space. Attendees staying there can take advantage of the hotel's six dining options, spa and 24-hour fitness center. And it's not often you can say you took a dip in a rooftop lazy river shaped like the state of Texas, a signature amenity at the property.

Nearby, another hotel that welcomes groups is the Four Seasons, fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation that began last April and was completed in January just in time for the Super Bowl. Tom Segesta, general manager of the property, described the updated lobby as "Houston's living room." Guests are invited in to enjoy features including the Topgolf Swing Suite, which welcomes small groups with two golf simulators. Also unique to the hotel are bourbon lockers to keep special libations safe as well as scented, colored (black to be exact) toilet paper. For meetings and events, the 341-room hotel offers more than 16,500 square feet of space.

Houston's meetings and events landscape is evolving as the city continues to embrace its diversity and the attributes that set it apart. With a vibrant central gathering place like Avenida Houston, the city is fast becoming a destination that does just that.