May 8, 2024

Hermann Park’s new Commons joins area’s public attractions

“I love the carousel,” said Hermann Park Conservatory advisory board member Roz Pactor. “My grandkids, Harley and Harper, do, too. It’s the primary focus for us.”

Pactor’s favorite spot is the Lott Family Carousel built by Chance Rides at the Commons, which is having its debut as the latest free attraction at Hermann Park. It’s sure to bring even more visitors to the Houston Southeast district, where great restaurants, museums, coffee shops, Black history sites and other amenities are clustered.

Beyond the carousel’s animal figures, there is so much more to the 26-acre recreation development in a formerly underused greenspace next to the Houston Zoo.

The Commons also borders Cambridge Street to the south, Fannin and Main streets to the west and the park’s Japanese Garden and McGovern Lake on the north side.

The Commons features include the Play Gardens with Swing Hill, the Cypress Grove play area, the Gorilla Forest with its larger-than-life gorilla play station, a Splash Cove water feature, a “bayou” with interactive workings of the area’s natural water features, the wooded Thicket for younger children and the Space Adventure, a rocket ship slide.

“While Houston may be known as Space City, the real inspiration for the (slide), known as the Hildebrand Foundation Rocket Ship, came from the rocket ship slide of earlier days in Hermann Park that many Houstonians have fond memories of playing on when they were kids,” Conservancy President Doreen Stoller explained. “MONSTRUM, the team behind the construction of the rocket ship slide, was inspired by real-life examples, specifically the (NASA) Saturn spacecrafts.”

But more than just a place to play, the Commons offers a place for quiet reflection, companionship and dining. The Central Lawn is for relaxing and informal sports, while the Live Oak Terrace offers a shaded deck with tables and lounge furniture, new grilling and picnic areas. The historic Fannin Pavilion has been renovated as a food truck court with tables and benches.

The Commons is part of the Play Your Park capital campaign project that includes the McWilliams Dog Park. Construction was completed in just under two years, leading to the April 2024 opening.

Architect Marlon Blackwell designed all of the structures and landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates helped transform the area into an inviting gateway and lively community asset.

“The Commons has so many wonderful play amenities, fun attractions, and beautiful natural spaces that it would not be fair to choose a favorite!” Stoller insisted. “Instead, I will say that my favorite part of the Commons is the opportunity it presents for people to gather in a very special place.

“Whether they visit for family fun, for a break in their day from the Medical Center or for a moment of respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, there is a moment of peace to be found or a space to be enjoyed here by people of all ages. The Commons will be another amazing destination in Hermann Park where people can make lifetime memories and traditions, now and in the many years to come.”

— by Marene Gustin

photos by Roz Pactor