Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Houston Walkable City panel should be an all day conference, not a 90 minute program...

I'm on the e-list for the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston and they sent out a notice on an upcoming workshop.  I thought it was kinda funny, because they need a whole day to deal with the topic, not a few minutes.

=======From email:
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
United Way of Greater Houston
50 Waugh Drive
7-8:30 p.m

Registration

Houston has long been a car-centric community. Over the past several years, the idea of a "walkable city" has been a hot topic in the Houston area. What does a walkable city mean? How do Houston's development policies hinder or support walkability?

Come join the conversation as the Kinder Institute for Urban Research hosts "Houston: A Walkable City?" The panel discussion will explore what Houston is doing well and where improvements are needed.

Panelists:
Margaret Wallace Brown, Deputy Director, City of Houston Planning and Development Department

George Levan, Chairman and CEO, Levan Group

Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, Incoming President, Greater East End Management District

Priya Zachariah, Manager, Regional and Long Range Planning, METRO
======
While it's true that Houston is a poster child for sprawl and it's a myth about how the city's "lack of zoning supercharges growth" there are examples of good or interesting better practice, even if almost everything good is dwarfed by the constant expansion of the road network ("Houston's $7 billion highway project would widen I-45 and revamp city," Houston Chronicle; "Houston projects to get major chunk of new funding approved for Texas highways," Houston Business Journal). 

What drives Houston's growth is that it is the center of the nation's oil and petrochemicals industries ("I get tired of the articles that ascribe Houston's economic success to its lack of zoning" and "A follow up on an earlier point about Houston and extractive economies).

Good practice nonetheless exists.  Besides the Kinder Institute at Rice University, there is:

- the Houston Galleria, first opened in 1970, is an early example of "modern" mixed use, adding hotel and a skating rink to a shopping mall, with later expansions including office (and more stores), setting the stage for wider spread adoption of the mixed use approach within real estate development
- Houston Tomorrow, an active regionally-focused smart growth citizens group
- a light rail system--although it isn't as focused on expansion as is the system in Dallas
- the Texas Medical Center, a good example of a multi-faceted health sciences campus
- the Project Row Houses arts initiative in the Third Ward
- a heritage buildings museum campus
- The Broadway/Hobby Corridor Redevelopment Project by Scenic Houston, improving the urban design qualities of the road linking Hobby Airport to the Downtown
- the proposed Texas Central Railway HSR project between Dallas and Houston
- Neighborhood Centers Inc., a modern form of the "settlement house," and their neighborhood revitalization focus

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