The Kinder Foundation is supported by an exceptional staff of smart and experienced professionals whose work helps carry out the mission of the Foundation: to support Greater Houston as a model city for economic opportunity and quality of life by providing transformation grants in the areas of urban green space, education, and quality of life.
We continue to highlight our talented team members, today with an introduction to Sarah Newbery, the Kinder Foundation’s director of parks and greenspace. Sarah coordinates partnerships and leads initiatives related to the foundation’s park projects, utilizing her decades of experience as an architect and project director to guide the foundation through its park partnerships with Memorial Park Conservancy, among others.
What books, podcasts, articles or other content are you currently consuming? What are you enjoying or learning from them?
I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks because they make folding laundry and walking the dogs feel like “me” time. I am a huge fan of Radiolab’s podcasts – they cover such an array of fascinating topics – but recently I have been listening to a podcast my 23-year-old niece started during Covid. She is an aspiring arts and culture journalist and covers the “conscious consumption of cultural phenomena from the wicked to the weird.” It is a great way to see things through younger eyes and I’ve learned a range of new things like the fact that we didn’t always sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events as well as the definition of “stan culture!” As for audiobooks, I am currently listening to The Tangled Tree by David Quammen about the evolution of life. It is a great introduction to the idea of horizontal gene transfer and suggests re-thinking the “tree of life” as more of a “web.” It is more radical than it sounds!
What do you hope to see accomplished in Houston’s green space sector in 20 years?
There are so many things, of course but I would love to see Houston’s hike and bike trail system continue to expand connectivity and overcome some of the current hurdles at key connections. On paper, we are close to having a 30-mile hike-bike loop (think the Atlanta Beltline) that would enable walkers and riders to travel through almost every district in the city. Through Buffalo Bayou and other Bayou Greenways projects, a large percentage of this “big loop” idea is already in place. The Memorial Park Ten Year Plan provides local match funding and concept designs for critical connections at the northwest corner of this loop, so my fingers are crossed that future federal funding grants will enable these to become a reality. I also hope that we can address the many park deserts that still exist in the Houston area – this is every bit as important as providing more connectivity to our existing parks. The health and environmental benefits of parks and greenspaces are well researched, but during this past year, I think we have all developed a greater first-hand appreciation for just how critical they are to our well-being.
How has your past work experience helped inform or prepare you for your work with the Kinder Foundation?
Every day I draw on skills and experiences from the two jobs I held prior to joining the foundation. Most recently, I worked at Uptown Houston for five years as part of their team partnering on the Memorial Park Master Plan and subsequent improvements. It was a fantastic introduction to all that goes into managing the planning, funding, and implementation of public-private partnerships, which is the Kinder Foundation’s primary template for greenspace and park projects. I experienced working with boards, crafting legal agreements, communicating with multiple stakeholders, and presenting a range of information from design concepts to financial models, all of which are things I do here at the foundation. Prior to working at Uptown, I worked for twelve years at Curtis & Windham Architects. It was there that I developed a thorough understanding of the design and construction process for both buildings and landscapes. Given the active role the foundation plays in reviewing project designs, schedules and budgets, my experience as a practicing architect has been essential.
Is there something about the Kinder Foundation that is meaningful to you that many people may not know?
I think people don’t realize how personally involved Nancy and Rich are on a day-to-day basis. They are here most days, right alongside the rest of the team, and remain engaged with the projects and organizations they support. Their input and first-hand involvement is remarkable to witness and a great learning opportunity.