Update 1/4/15 - Because of the incredible support from the community, we are now above our goal of $30k! We have needs for any donations above that goal, and have made the decision to announce stretch goals for the remainder of the campaign. More donations will help us to build a stronger team and organizational system, let's see how far we can go!
We have made the promise to be fully transparent in the entire process, and we will be making the feasibility report open to the public so you can see exactly how the project is progressing. Reaching beyond $30k will allow us to produce additional materials such as high quality professional videos detailing our findings in a very clear format. The goal will be to make our findings as clear and as useful to the public as possible.
Support beyond $40k will provide us with resources beyond the feasibility study, including renderings, soil tests, and additional items needed to bring the project through to the next phase. Once the feasibility study is completed, the site has been selected and secured, and the costs determined, we will seek funding from a variety of sources including institutional donors, philanthropists, foundations, grants, etc. to build the project. We will not be asking our community for donations after this campaign ends (unless you're tied to one of the aforementioned institutions ;)). Any additional funds received now will provide better resources to raise the amount necessary to build the swimming hole.
Update 12/3/14 - We've been getting some excellent coverage in the media, here are links to what the press has been saying: Houston Chronicle | OffCite | Houston Matters on KUHF | CultureMap | Swamplot
Houston is ready for a fun, refreshing urban environment unlike anything in the city! A place for everyone that will help make it a more livable, enjoyable world-class city…Houston is ready for a swimming hole! Our summers are brutal, but a swimming hole will give us a refreshing and much-needed escape. A beautiful, naturally-filtered, centrally-located swimming hole will directly improve quality of life and community health by offering people a gathering place where they can comfortably recreate outdoors, exercise, make new friends, and love Houston - even in the hottest months.
Houston has an outstanding and growing network of parks - Hermann, Memorial, Discovery Green, Buffalo Bayou, etc. One can spend an entire day traversing the wonderful and varied parks that criss-cross this city. We believe a swimming hole will not only complement, but could become a centerpiece of Houston's park system. It will bolster so many of the improvements that have been made to the parks in recent years and add a whole new dimension - swimmable, refreshing water!
Austin and Central/West Texas have many great swimming holes - from Barton Springs to Balmorhea to Krause Springs. In cities across the world, natural swimming holes and pools and are major quality-of-life attractions. Outside of Sydney, the historic Bondi Iceberg natural pool has been around for more than a century and features a small beach, bar, and kiddie pool. Streets Beach in Brisbane, Australia is a man-made swimming beach that overlooks the Brisbane River and central business district. In Berlin, Arena Badeshiff is a 105-foot-long pool that floats in the Spree River. Berlin also has a proposal, the Flussbad project, to convert a segment of the Spree River in historic downtown Berlin into a 2,500-ft long filtered swimming river. In London's "most exciting 'new' neighborhood," King's Cross, a man-made natural swimming pond is taking shape. In Bavaria, the Badepark Inzell natural lake is a man-made swimming lake without chemicals. + Pool's proposal to build a floating pool in New York City's badly contaminated East River, would filter the river water to create a clean swimming pool. And, Webber Park Pool, under construction in Minneapolis, will be the country's first natural swimming pool.
Since launching the idea for a swimming hole in Houston earlier this year, we have been amazed by how much support we've received from the City and community leaders, including the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, the Greater East End District, the City of Houston Sustainability Office, the Shell Center For Sustainability at Rice University, and many other organizations. In October, Houston’s former first lady Andrea White published a piece entitled ‘Houston Needs a Great Big Swimming Hole’ in Gray Matters on the Chronicle’s website.
Shortly after, Sherwood Design Engineers, a leading international engineering firm that has expertise in water, parks, and urban spaces, and designed Google's Campus in Bay View, joined us as partners on the project. We are honored to have such an innovative, renowned firm engaged to help push this project through the first phase of feasibility.
This swimming hole will be structured as a non-profit, and part of our feasibility study will be to create a sustainable model that shows how to maintain the beautiful space long into the future.
Our team - Monte Large, Jeff Kaplan, and Evan O'Neil - has a background in urban design and real estate development; we're social entrepreneurs committed to making a positive impact on the city in which we grew up. We've worked together for several years and are partners in projects such as New Living, Beaver's, and, most recently, Houston's first Parklet. We couldn't be more excited to be here in Houston at this moment. Houston is a city founded on big ideas and innovation, where bold visions become reality. The city is redefining itself before our eyes, and its current wave of profound growth proves that Houston is ready for such a noteworthy project with lasting urban impact. Houston's natural swimming hole is one of those big ideas that will help us love Houston even more. It can become a reality with your support.
We want the creation process of the swimming hole to be as open and collaborative as possible; something of which we can all be proud. This project is about making our city even better for everyone, and we need the community's support. We want your input on where the swimming hole should be located, how it should look, what amenities it should have, and what it should be called. We plan on announcing ways the community can be involved in January, including a series of events on prospective sites for the swimming hole. Let's build our city together!
The critical next step is to undertake a feasibility study (outlined below). Sherwood Design Engineers is ready to get started.
Once the feasibility report is complete and the right sites are determined, we will pursue a location. Once the ideal location is secured, a capital campaign to raise funds for the construction will be launched.
We are looking to our community for help in laying the foundation and groundwork for this plan, so we can all invest in making it happen.
How will your donations be used?
We are raising money to complete a feasibility study in 2015. This study will include the following:
- Analysis to study optimum site conditions
- Study of local, regional and national government regulations and permitting
- Environmental impact and research
- Development of community support
- Market research
- Financial modeling and budgeting
- Site selection
- Size requirements
- Securing of a non-profit, public development partner
- Business plan for operations and maintenance of the pool once opened
This feasibility study will determine how the project will go forward. Once complete, the project will move into the additional phases, which include fundraising, design, construction, and, ultimately, diving in!
Risks and challenges
Building a centrally-located, accessible, and noteworthy swimming hole presents a host of possible risks and challenges. Many of these will be addressed in the feasibility study. They include possible regulatory framework challenges in Houston, site engineering challenges, water source issues, long-term sustainability challenges, and safety concerns. We must also build community support in order to fund the final project. Although $30,000 is needed to kickstart the effort, show community backing, and start the feasibility study, additional private funds will need to be raised in order to undertake the full feasibility analysis, cover organizational costs, and pay our team and consultants. There are a mountain of regulatory, insurance, and financial hurdles, but our team loves challenges, and always dives right in to find solutions. With a team that includes Sherwood Design Engineers having overcome similar hurdles in projects around the world, we have no doubt that we can successfully work through any challenges.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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