Downtown library plaza to be named for first lady Barbara Bush

By Alyson Ward 

Houston Chronicle, December 6, 2016

Houston’s Central Library plaza will be named the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza to recognize the former first lady’s efforts to boost literacy, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday.

The announcement kicks off a $5.5 million fundraising campaign to renovate the downtown plaza, which stretches between the main library and the historic Julia Ideson Building.

The renovated plaza will feature two reading gardens — one for adults, another for children — a cafe with outdoor seating, a jumbo screen for public movie screenings, and an art lawn for rotating exhibits. 

Barbara Bush has worked for literacy causes for decades. She started the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy when she was first lady, and in 2013, the Bush family launched the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to address literacy issues and mobilize volunteers in Houston. 

“Literacy is the cornerstone to being successful, and a community with a high literacy rate also has high productivity and even higher incomes,” Turner said. “That is the future for Houston.”

The fundraising campaign got an immediate boost with three announcements Tuesday: Neil Bush, the son of George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, announced a $500,000 donation to the project from his parents. Phillips 66 and the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation will each make $500,000 gifts as well.

The renovation should make the plaza more of a downtown destination. Already, more than 650,000 people pass through the plaza each year to go to the library, and hundreds of thousands more visit the plaza during special events downtown.