Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Developers Like Ainbinder are Happy Being Less Than Awesome ...

I have long known that the folks on the other side of this discussion read this blog, follow the FB group, and watch the local media outlets for stories.  They have gone so far as to hire PR Firms, create anonymous FB profiles to comment back and forth in the FB group, and comment on this blog.  Need proof, See Here ...

That said, this post is for you folks ...

If you haven't done it yet, go read this article ... Its really quite good.

As a summary:
-Nathan Norris came to town
-Mr. Norris works with Placemakers
-Placemakers promotes efficient planning and urban usage (Mixed Use, walkable developments)
-Mr. Norris believes Houston is not living up to its potential

"My one big take-away from my visit to Houston was that Houston has the greatest potential to be America's most worldly city,"

Thats a pretty big deal ... so what gives?

We don't have rules, guidelines, or the correct incentives. While some developers take chances in putting up great urban spaces like West Avenue and City Centre, Ainbinder gets millions to put up a strip mall with fast food drive throughs in the middle of my neighborhood. ... What the hell kind of sense does that make?

Right now, you folks (And again, I'm talking to you developers and Moody Rambin folks) don't have a plan. You have a picture of a strip mall with no train tracks, no houses around it, that is apparently built on an open field of green where ferries and unicorns prance and eat jellybeans.
But there's no plan to make it great. You pave a field, put up some one story buildings, and say you're done ... but thats not greatness folks.

You're playing in the minor leagues.

"Underperforming" was a word he used frequently. Our lax rules about development, he said, not only mean that our daily lives are poorer for streets edged with garage doors instead of trees.
They also mean that Houston's developers aren't making as much money as they could from their projects - and that taxpayers don't reap the full potential of their investments in public space.
Norris argued that despite Houston's enormous advantages - warm weather, a business-friendly environment, thriving economy, water supply, friendliness - our disjointed approach to building the city is holding us back.

But perhaps thats what the developers are happy with. Its safe to continue in a string of 'developments' that require little creativity, and less ingenuity.

Well, its a good article ... good ideas ... and I hope to live somewhere that will aspire to be much greater than it already is, and have a grander vision than a brick facade strip mall at some point in time soon.

There Was A Protest This Past Weekend

It was almost like old times.  The media was out, and there were quite a few neighbors and friends out at the Yale Street bridge this past Saturday, including CM Gonzalez.

As most of you are aware, the Yale Street bridge is in pretty bad shape. This is made worse because the development(s) are going to be bringing more traffic and 18 wheelers over it, which isn't a good thing.

So, a protest was held over the weekend at the Bridge to raise awareness.

Here's some pretty good coverage over at ABC 13.

At 2:21 in the video, we get this message from CoH Public Works:

'The Yale Street Bridge will require upgrade or replacement in the foreseeable future, and PWE continues to explore all options for funding such work.'

Here's where you can get $6 Million to start ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Community Wrote A Letter

For several months, the community has been putting forth a lot of noise about the traffic issues regarding the Washington Heights Development. Councilman Gonzalez has supported the efforts of the community, and other Council Members have also spoken in support of the community on this one, especially CM Noriega, CM Jones, and CM Rodriguez. 

So, the neighborhood coalitions decided to get together to author a joint position statement. You can read the complete statement here: 


The basic rundown of the letter is this: 
-Fix the Yale Street bridge - its old and in disrepair, and by running lots of development traffic on it, including 18 wheelers, it will break. The traffic this development will create could very well be the catalyst for the collapse of the bridge, which would be a pretty bad thing. 

-Close Heights to 18 wheeler traffic - While Heights Blvd North of I-10 is presently designated this way, the letter asks that Heights be closed to 18 wheeler traffic for the length of the street, which ends only a few blocks to the south of I-10 at Washington. Thus, keeping that portion of Heights open to 18 wheeler traffic, while closing the rest of it, looks to favor the development and not the community. 

-Close off Bass Street - As previously covered in detail, Bass Street as an entrance to the development is a pretty lousy idea. The Developer's Traffic Study essentially says that not a lot of traffic is going to use this route, yet they claim it is essential to the project. What sense does that make? 

-The conclusion of the letter sums it up pretty well: 

"Our neighborhood spirit and sense of community are strong in these beliefs and recommendations. We encourage you, our civic leaders, to ultimately heed what is in the best interest of the greater public, and not sacrifice safety for the benefit of private development."

Can't really say it better than that right there. Here's the community, going to our elected officials, unified, saying please fix these things ... and if they're just talked at, and not fixed, then why would the community have any faith in the elected officials any longer? What more do they need?

These aren't unreasonable requests ... fix a bridge so it doesn't collapse and restrict traffic thats unwanted and unnecessary through neighborhoods. 

If nothing else, its a public safety issue. If you recall the collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minnesota a few years's back. 13 people were killed, and school bus including 60 children was involved. Of course the bridge was old, but the catalyst for the collapse was resurfacing:

Part of what the '380' calls for is resurfacing of the Yale Street Bridge ... And if you think that the opportunity doesn't exist for catastrophe to happen here ... think again. 

There has been a lot of talking 'at' these issues. Lots of people in the City have said they'll monitor this, or 'work with' this person, etc ... Its all a bunch of nonsense so far. Until somebody comes out with a clear plan for solutions, then its all just noise and appeasement of the developers, Ainbinder (& Orr).