Navigation Boulevard is a five-mile thoroughfare in Houston’s East End that connects Downtown to the Port of Houston. Near its western terminus, a three-block stretch of the boulevard, spanning from North Saint Charles Street to Delano Street, has been transformed into a dedicated pedestrian zone known as the Navigation Esplanade. Completed in 2013, this space is composed of shade structures, public art, decorative site furnishings and a cafe and outdoor market, all of which commemorate the Mexican heritage of Houston’s East End. Several community landmarks such as the Houston Maritime Museum, Guadalupe Plaza Park, and the historic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Cemetery are located along this pedestrian mall, which is locally known as “El Corazón de la Comunidad” (“the heart of the community”).
Iron arches made to resemble papel picado, a traditional Mexican folk art consisting of elaborate designs cut into tissue paper, announce the Esplanade at both St. Charles and Delano Streets. The ironwork includes motifs of trains, oil wells, and ships, relating to the East End’s proximity to the Port of Houston. The Esplanade is paved with colored concrete and red brick pavers, with cutouts for boulders and plantings of boxwood, crepe myrtles, and Mexican sycamores. Heading East along the Esplanade, colorful shade structures adorn a cafe and echo the papel picado overhead. Just beyond, old growth live oak trees are protected through the introduction of a raised wooden platform with wrap-around seating and picnic tables. Colorfully painted storage containers host stands for a weekly market, and large solar panels provide power to the site. Throughout the Esplanade, one can find inscriptions in English and Spanish that reference Mexican and Texas culture. A set of faux bois benches and a giant anchor designed by local artists Anthony Shumate and Gary Sweeney truncate the Esplanade’s eastern end.