Houston is one step closer to receiving a makeover now that council has adopted the district’s much-anticipated Downtown Beautification Plan.
Developed by Urban Systems, the plan aims to increase activity downtown by attracting and encouraging new local businesses and making the downtown area more attractive for people passing along the highway.
It builds on the need to diversify the district’s economy in light of the challenges facing the local forest products industry.
The plan identifies a number of challenges facing downtown, including the lack of a cohesive identity, the number of empty lots and spaces, the lack of places attractive enough to entice people to linger and stay downtown, and the fact that visibility of the downtown area from the highway – despite its proximity to it – is poor.
But according to the plan, these same problems present opportunities. The district’s best bet is to encourage the development of already vacant lands scattered throughout the area. These empty spaces have the highest potential for development in the downtown – either as new businesses or as plaza space.
The plan proposes a community barn and plaza space that would be visible to highway motorists, and would act as a landmark anchor to the Poulton Avenue corridor. Other recommendations to improve Houston’s appeal include modular seating, decorative hanging baskets and wall screens.
In addition, the plan envisions utilizing decorative crosswalks and thematic patterns sandblasted into the sidewalks as tools to enhance visitor experience in the downtown, as well as a way to lead pedestrians to key locations in Houston.
When it comes to managing highway intersections on 9th Street and Butler Avenue, however, the plan conflicts with the district’s existing Hwy. 16 Improvement Project. After completing upgrades to the north-side sidewalk of Hwy. 16, the district is seeking funding to upgrade the south side of the highway, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
As a next step, council has requested that district staff review the contents of both plans.
“Staff will be presenting information to council and seeking direction on council’s preference for traffic management prior to proceeding with highway sidewalk and intersection upgrades,” said Gerald Pinchbeck, the district’s chief administrative officer.
It is anticipated that sidewalk and intersection upgrades on the south side of Hwy. 16 will occur no sooner than 2021, he adds.
The District of Houston also continues to seek funding to implement the Downtown Beautification Plan.