The District of Houston’s plans for a wholesale reconstruction of 9th Street downtown are continuing with an Oct. 23 meeting scheduled to consider design options.
It follows a Sept. 17 presentation to council by consultants Urban Systems and resulting discussion to narrow down options leading to a final design so that a work program for next year can be put in place.
The redevelopment will not just be on the street surface — wholesale improvements to the District’s water system are needed and repairs to the sanitary sewer system are also needed.
And it follows, as expressed in a backgrounder for council, its identification of “the need to increase activity downtown, attract and encourage new local businesses, and to make the downtown more attractive for people passing along the highway.”
Key considerations relate to access and parking with opinions being expressed to not interfere with overall access and to ensure there’s optimum parking for customers.
“9th Street can be considered as two parts, with the western portion having slightly less public right of way width to work with than the eastern portion,” Urban Systems planners wrote in a follow up letter to the District following the Sept. 17 council meeting.
“Therefore, options can be considered separately for these two lengths, but keeping in mind that the overall form and character of the entire length must make sense.”
Urban Systems boiled its research and discussions down to four options with one it says provides benefits while addressing some concerns about parking and vehicle access.
That option, it’s being called a “balanced approach”, would have a centre median with trees only at the ends of the road.
In doing so trees would book end the street and provide visual interest and reduces the length where access to parking is limited because the median would not go the entire length.
“Some parking is lost to accommodate the mid-block crossing, but that feature could add visual interest and is a significant benefit for accessibility in the downtown. Parking is still close to all businesses,” indicated Urban Systems.
This option would feature angle parking on both sides of the road, something that hinges upon continuing to have parked vehicles on private property.
“If that cannot be accommodated, then having parallel parking on the north side of the street could still work with this layout,” Urban Systems indicated.
Of the remaining options, Urban Systems recommended council dismiss the prospect of eliminating angle parking in favour of parallel parking.
“Almost half the parking stalls in the eastern portion of the corridor would be eliminated,” the consultants noted.
The consultants also noted that one option, to have a centre median with trees along the entire length of the street may not be a preferred option.
“Some concerns were raised regarding limiting access to parking spots since the median will block access to some parking spot,” the indicated.
The planners did say another option, that of having no centre median would work but that “wide sidewalks in the eastern portion may actually seem too wide” with one Urban Systems staffer noting the overall result of not having a median could be like a “sea of asphalt”.
“Based on the layouts presented previously and the options included in this letter, it is anticipated that choosing between a centre median with trees or having no centre median will likely be the most significant consideration,” Urban Systems concluded.
Still to be determined is whether the owners of Chia’s Dream Closet and City Furniture properties wish to continue to have street side parking extend onto their property.
“If they deem it acceptable, then angle parking can be accommodated on both sides of the road,” Urban Systems indicated.
“If they deem it unacceptable, then parallel parking on that side of the road could still be accommodated.”
The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Houston council chambers.