20 PCMA CONVENE JULY 2017 PCMACONVENE.ORG
CONVENE ON SITE
A New Avenida in the Heart of Houston
Gripping the metal railing in my left hand, I carefully shuffled along the rim of the underground reservoir. It was nearly pitch
black except for thin neon lights that
gently flickered on the cement poles in
the middle of the cavernous structure,
reflecting off the still water below.
Sounds of rolling thunder echoed
throughout the room, with the occasional flash of lightning. It was the
new installation Rain by Venezuelan
artist Magdalena Fernández at the
Cistern, an unused reservoir from the
1920s in Houston.
This was one of many surprises during a short visit hosted by Visit Houston to experience Avenida Houston,
the city’s newly reconfigured convention district. Before landing at George
Bush Intercontinental Airport, the two
things that came to mind when I heard
“Houston” were NASA and Beyoncé.
Little did I know, my first night I’d eat
authentic queso topped with a “trio
of insects” (actually delicious) and sip
mezcal cocktails at Xochi, a chic new
Mexican restaurant helmed by five-
time James Beard–nominated chef
BIGGEST AND BEST
By my second day in the city, it made
sense that people refer to Houston as
the “culinary and cultural capital of the
South.” There are more than 10,000
restaurants showcasing all different
kinds of flavors from around the world,
and we sampled just about all of them.
We started out that day with breakfast
burritos at Phoenicia Specialty Foods, a
high-end market that sells items from
more than 50 countries. It also serves
as a home-goods store and moonlights
as a karaoke bar. The MKT Bar in the
back is available for special events, and
upstairs, among rows of arrowroot
powder and “luxury lemon curd,”
there’s a space for private group activi-
ties accommodating up to 40 people.
From Phoenicia, we walked across
the street to the newly renovated, 468-
room Four Seasons Hotel Houston,
which offers more than 16,500 square
feet of meeting space. The property’s
lobby underwent a multimillion-dollar
revamp, and now General Manager Tom
Segesta calls it “Houston’s living room”
— nicely complementing nearby Buffalo
Bayou Park, aka “Houston’s playground.”
Long leather couches and coffee tables
line the lobby, and natural light streams
in through skylights three floors above.
It’s right next to the hotel bar — the “lon-
gest marble bar in Texas,” Segesta told us.
This is important to Houston, where
everything is the “biggest,” the “best.”
It’s a city that prides itself on breaking
records and setting standards. It’s on its
way to being the third-largest city in the
United States, and is the most racially
and culturally diverse city in Texas.