HOUSTON, JANUARY 14, 2004 - East Downtown Houston has a new grand entrance thanks to an unusual effort to paint dozens of freeway supports under U.S. 59 along Chartres. The project is the first of its kind at this scale in Houston.

Work has finished on painting a total of 90 columns east of the George R. Brown Convention Center, extending from Polk north to Capital. The supports are painted bright red to celebrate the heritage of Houston''s original Chinatown neighborhood and its cultural diversity. Additionally, Chartres has been repaved and striped and chain link fencing behind the George R. Brown Convention Center has been replaced with decorative wrought iron fencing.

            "Most people enter East Downtown from either downtown Houston or U.S. 59, so we consider Chartres our front door," said Dan Nip, vice chairman of the East Downtown Management District Board. "This painting initiative is a striking example of what is being accomplished to improve the visual impression of East Downtown by making it a user-friendly, enjoyable, people-oriented place to visit."

            The beautification effort is the result of a neighborly partnership between the East Downtown Management District, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone''s board and the City of Houston Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department.

"East Downtown is a short walk from a number of major new attractions, including George R. Brown Convention Center, Hilton Americas Houston, Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center, and this beautification initiative serves as a giant ''WE''RE OPEN'' sign to attract visitors," said Steve Pittman, spokesperson for the East Downtown Management District. "As more people venture further east into the district, they will be reminded of the culture, history and development opportunities that exist in East Downtown."

The East Downtown Management District was created in 1999 by the Texas Legislature to provide public services for business owners and residents east of Downtown Houston. Funded through an annual assessment of commercial property, the district is authorized to partner with other government agencies and raise revenue to administer public projects related to roadways, utilities, public spaces, and economic development.

For more information on the East Downtown Management District, visit www.eastdowntowndistrict.org.