The District of Houston council has approved a final design for its downtown beautification 9th Street project, setting the stage now for a final and detailed work plan leading to a construction start next year.
The final design was approved by the council Nov. 5 following an extensive series of concepts prepared by consultants Urban Systems and involving comment from merchants along the street.
This is actually a two-part project involving not only surface works but also a replacement of aging underground infrastructure.
Key to the design approved by council was an Oct. 23 public forum in which comments were gathered to incorporate common themes.
Those common themes included a median on the west end where 9th Street meets Hwy16, to have a mid-block crossing between City Furniture and Country Wide Printing and string lighting at crossings.
Not favourable was the idea of an east end median where 9th Street meets Butler and instead to have inviting features in its place.
The overall objective, aside from the need to replace old underground infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes and to improve drainage, is to construct a street that’s inviting to passersby on Hwy16 and to encourage pedestrian activity and public use.
To that extent, the plan does not envision more parking, something merchants had wanted.
Urban Systems, in evaluating current parking, noted that a review of parking demand contained in a 2018 master transportation plan determined at a peak daily demand, just 32 per cent of parking spaces were occupied.
And this plan now calls for a combination of parallel and angle parking spots.
“We believe the updated concept creates a balance between public input and the intent to make 9th Street a more attractive area of Houston’s downtown,” Urban Systems concluded.
Key to vehicle access is a vehicle turnaround, between two rows of angle parking, behind buildings on one side of the street.
There’s also space set aside adjacent to Hwy16 for a community barn.
Trees will be planted along 9th Street and sidewalks will be accessible to all users.
Urban Systems did note that there could be minor adjustments during the detailed design aspects now underway in preparation for the project going to tender. Completion of the final design is forecast for next spring.
Money for the underground works would come from $2.5 million the District has set aside in its water and sewer capital works account while the above ground reconstruction would be financed by taking $1.059 million from a grant provided by the provincial government earlier this year.
That grant totalled $4.486 million, part of $100 million the province provided northwestern local governments to help them finance capital projects.