Solar-Powered Classroom Built By UH Students Unveiled April 20 at Park at Palm Center

Educational Amenity Among Features of New Third Ward Community Park

When it opened in 1955, Houston’s Palm Center (at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Griggs Road) was a place for friends and families to socialize and shop. In recent years, however, the former shopping mecca has become a quiet business park.

Fast forward to 2013. The site has undergone a transformation that will bring friends and families back to the revitalized and expanded Park at Palm Center. The park will celebrate its rebirth with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., April 20. Among its new amenities is a solar-powered outdoor classroom and cooking demonstration platform designed by University of Houston graphic communications and architecture students.

Prefabricated on campus from structural steel, the structure hosts four photovoltaic solar panels (800 watts) on its roof to power a ceiling fan, lighting and electrical outlets (that can power appliances for cooking demonstrations). It also contains cisterns to harvest rainwater for use in plant and garden irrigation. Informational signage will be placed on the structure and offer short facts on health, nutrition and sustainability. This outdoor cooking classroom is located next to the park’s community garden.

Asakura Robinson Company developed the community garden and Millis Development & Construction, Inc. installed the outdoor platform.

Architecture students provided the structure’s design while graphic communications students created the infographics depicting health tips and details on sustainability. Students were guided by architecture professor Patrick Peters and graphic communications professor Cheryl Beckett.

The Park at Palm Center was developed by the Old Spanish Trail/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority - TIRZ #7 in cooperation with UH’s Third Ward Arts Initiative and several community partners. In 2011, the Third Ward Arts Initiative received a $100,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help enhance the park and its surrounding community with public art and other amenities.

Professors Peters and Beckett will attend the April 20 ceremony, as well as research professor Carroll Parrott Blue, who linked the UH designers with the park’s professional team. Other UH representatives will include Marshall Schott, UH associate vice president of university outreach, and Elwyn C. Lee, vice president for community relations and institutional access.


About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 40,700 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.