The main corridor from I-45 to Hobby Airport is a real mess, with torn-up roads, cracked sidewalks, forlorn oak trees and bedraggled plants. But by the end of the year, Broadway Boulevard will be an eyesore no more.
That's the plan of Scenic Houston and city officials who announced a major project to beautify the nearly two-mile-long route that is just about the first thing visitors see upon arriving in Houston. "First impressions are lasting impressions and this will make a lasting impression," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference at the Alta Verde Apartments just off Broadway near Hobby Airport.
Beautification work will begin as soon as the $17 million road construction project along Broadway Boulevard from Interstate 45 to Airport Boulevard ends in a few months. It will include the planting of more than 400 trees, in addition to the 200 live oaks that already exist in the median along the route, lush landscaping with hundreds of varieties of plants and flowers, upgraded LED street lighting, better crosswalks and other improvements.
Clark Condon Associates developed the landscaping plan.
Scenic Houston board chair Harry Masterson said the nonprofit group became involved about two years ago when it learned there were no funds for beautifying the area in the budget for the roadway construction project. "Opportunities to dramatically change major corridors come along only once in a generation," Masterson said. "We could not pass on this opportunity. Simply put, we are going to make Broadway look great and make it inviting."
The non-profit has raised $4.9 million for the project in a public-private partnership with a goal of $7.5 million, which includes maintenance for two full years, said Scenic Houston president Anne Culver. The Hobby Area Management District will maintain landscaping once the project is completed.
"This isn't just a fluff project or a beautification project for a temporary purpose. This is a legacy for this community and this city hereafter," Culver said.
Major donors include The Houston Endowment, Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 8, The Brown Foundation, The Fondren Foundation, Houston First Corporation, The Wortham Foundation and Trees for Houston, which is providing in-kind services.
With such significant improvements as the new Southwest Airlines international terminal, landscape enhancements on Airport Boulevard, multi-use paths and trails on Sims Bayou and a Botanic Garden in the works, the area is undergoing a renaissance, said District I council member Robert Gallegos. "This area is transforming and it will only get bigger and better," he said, predicting it "will be like the Garden District for Houston."
The project is expected to be completed by late this year and in place in time for the Super Bowl in February 2017. But Turner insisted that it wasn't done just for the big event. "We are preparing ourselves not just for the Super Bowl but we're working together to make a better Houston for the people who live here," he said.