With new site identified, fundraising efforts for Levitt Pavilion at Willow Waterhole are underway

A former Shell research facility adjacent to the Willow Waterhole was purchased by the city of Houston in October. A portion of the site could be the new home of a community performance space. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
A former Shell research facility adjacent to the Willow Waterhole was purchased by the city of Houston in October. A portion of the site could be the new home of a community performance space. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

A former Shell research facility adjacent to the Willow Waterhole was purchased by the city of Houston in October. A portion of the site could be the new home of a community performance space. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

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The Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston organization has raised 40% of a $100,000 goal toward preconstruction work for a new community performance space that could begin construction in 2022.

The targeted land is an approximate 28-acre plot adjacent to a network of detention basins known collectively as the Willow Waterhole, just southwest of Loop 610, at 5300 Dryad Drive, Houston.

The city of Houston purchased the land—a former Shell Oil Co. facility—in October 2019 for $3.4 million to serve as the site for a new detention basin.

Levitt Pavilion Houston would take up 15 acres of that plot, which includes 3 acres for the pavilion space and bowl for 5,000 attendees to congregate, plus parking, according to preliminary plans, though those could change as the project moves forward. The group is coordinating with the Levitt Foundation, which encourages the creation of large public performance venues throughout the US by repurposing obsolete or neglected outdoor spaces.

Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston has started a Founder’s Circle for pre-construction work, which includes rendering, formulating a budget, master planning and for marketing and consultant costs, with a $1,200 minimum commitment, according to chairman Howard Sacks.


“It’s more a grassroots fundraising effort,” Sacks said. “Rebooting requires money.”

Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston, with collaborative efforts from Westbury Civic Club, Brays Oaks Management District, and others, shifted focus from an original location along South Post Oak Boulevard after Harris County Toll Road Authority began a study for a possible expansion of Fort Bend Tollway that would sit right on top of the pavilion location.

“The toll road would go right over the property and would include a 28-foot flyover,” Sacks said. “We went to the authorities. Nobody could and still can give us a direction, so we needed to find a new site.”

The original lease agreement had the South Post Oak Boulevard target location in mind when it was drafted.

“We have to revise that agreement,” Sacks said. “The original agreement was for the original location. In fact, a lot of that agreement will need to be revised, but hopefully not the amount.”

The city of Houston would lease a portion of the former Shell site to Levitt Pavilion Houston in a 30-year agreement, Sacks said.

In the meantime, city of Houston has leased five acres back to Shell on the west side of the property until the end of the year while it clears out the property.

“There are no concerns to us,” Sacks said. “We’re on the east side, and the lease back is on the west side.”

Friends of Levitt Pavilion would also need to revise a three-party stakeholder agreement with the city of Houston and Levitt Foundation, according to a presentation Sacks made during a recent Meyerland Super Neighborhood meeting. The agreement would outline the permanent naming of the venue as Levitt Pavilion as well as the responsibilities of each party.

However, Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston hope to turn the new space into something more than just an entertainment venue, should the organization be leased more than 15 acres.

“We want to create a whole campus that greatly strengthens each other, and in the big picture, is much more of a community, economic catalyst,” Sacks said.

To donate to the Founder’s Circle, visit Friends of Levitt Pavilion Houston at www.levitthouston.org
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.