by John Egan

Next year, it'll be easier to eat, drink and be merry in the Houston Convention District.


As many as seven new retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues are on tap for the area surrounding the George R. Brown Convention Center "as part of a bold streetscape makeover in the newly revitalized eastern section of downtown Houston," according to Houston First Corp., which manages the convention center.

These new spots are on track to open in late 2016, ahead of the Super Bowl in 2017 and around the debut of the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis Houston in September 2016. Griffin Partners, a commercial real estate developer, and Wulfe & Co., a commercial and retail real estate firm, are leading the search for tenants, including full-service and fast-casual restaurants, to fill those spaces.

"These people places will be major amenities for the Avenida de las Americas, the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel, Discovery Green, the new Marriott Marquis, and the new offices and parking garage included in the master plan," Ric Campo, chairman of Houston First, said in a news release.

The estimated 30,000 square feet of restaurants and other spaces will front Avenida de las Americas. Each will range from about 1,500 square feet to more than 10,000 square feet.
The planned restaurants and retail stores are designed to help promote the Convention District as an all-around destination.

"How a city is perceived by out-of-town visitors is influenced by the part of the city they experience. Many conventioneers and trade show attendees will only experience that part of Houston that exists between their hotel and the Convention Center," according to the center's 2025 Master Plan.

The $357 million Marriott Marquis project, a companion to the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston, is helping drive the renaissance of the area surrounding the Convention Center.

"It's hard to overstate the value of having a second ... hotel attached to the George R. Brown," Campo said. "This is a vitally important tool in our tool belt and one that opens up an entirely new universe of mega-conventions for which we can now be competitive."

Of course, every one of the rooms at the Marriott Marquis will be filled for the Super Bowl in 2017. It's estimated that roughly 500,000 visitors will descend on Houston for the big game, which will be played at NRG Stadium.

Discovery Green, a nearly 12-acre downtown park that opened in 2008, will host an array of Super Bowl activities, most notably a 10-day fan festival. Bob McNair, chairman and CEO of the NFL's Houston Texans, has said the park can hold more than 100,000 people without the need for street closures.

As Houston gears up for the 2017 Super Bowl, the restaurants, retail shops and various other projects underway in the Convention District will help elevate the Bayou City's place on the world stage.

"The Super Bowl is a tremendous opportunity to showcase all that our great city has to offer," said Campo, who also is chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. "We are ready to shine a bright light on our city, highlighting Houston as an extraordinary place to live, work and play."

Learn more about the evolving Houston Convention District at visithouston.com/meetings/.