Not long ago, Washington Avenue was rife with decaying buildings and empty lots. Now it's a nightlife hotspot that teems with life and commerce.
Anyone who has driven down the bar-studded corridor on a weekend night, though, has witnessed the down side comes along with the upswing: Parking scarcity, drunken patrons staggering across the busy street, congestion caused by taxi cabs — and that's just on the main thoroughfare, not to mention the neighborhood streets that are just a block beyond.
Don Pagel, deputy director at the city's Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs, has a plan for a parking benefit district along Washington that will alleviate some parking problems and bring in funds to reinvest in the neighborhood.
Don Pagel has a plan for a parking benefit district along Washington that will alleviate some problems.
That plan, which will be presented at a Houston City Council committee meeting on Thursday, calls for residential parking permits, pay stations that charge $2 per hour for curbside parking spots, better neighborhood lighting, improved sidewalks, plus three employees — two parking enforcement officers and a meter mechanic. Pagel aims to have it on the full council agenda by the end of the year.
The general improvement of the area is also the focus of the Washington Avenue Livable Centers initiative, formed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council in partnership with BetterHouston, the City of Houston, TIRZ 15 and a handful of private firms.
But for that group, Pagel's parking plan is only the first step toward an ultimate goal of reducing the amount of surface parking altogether by creating a mixed-use destination with multi-modal transit options, Zakcq Lockrem, project manager for the consultant team and director of planning at Asakura Robinson (which has offices along the Washington corridor), tells CultureMap.
After nine months of research, public meetings and community input, the Livable Centers' framework for future development was presented at an "open house and celebration" on Monday evening at Asakura Robinson Company — and touted as one that will enhance the quality of live of area residents and the experience of visitors while promoting economic development, environmental conscientiousness and further expansion along the corridor.
Among the 12 recommendations are multi-modal mobility; a dedicated management entity to help with the area's branding; high-frequency transit (initially a bus circulator, with a fixed streetcar in the future); bicycle facilities; comprehensive parking (with an incremental reduction); a redesign of the Memorial Drive/Waugh Drive interchange; building set-backs; affordable housing; storm water management that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing; the transformation of underutilized parcels to parks, squares and recreational areas; public art programs and official arts district designation; and the promotion of locally-scaled retail.
Find more information about the Washington Avenue Livable Centers Plan here.