Warehouse District makeover? Re-routed bayou, roundabout freeway, San Jacinto extension are the buzz
Much energy and influence has been devoted to the recent effort to revitalize downtown Houston, but the blocks between Buffalo Bayou and I-10 seem to have been left out of much of the discussion.
That all changed at a Warehouse District Visioning Workshop on Thursday morning, where panelists from the City of Houston, Harris County and transit agencies presented a status update on future infrastructure projects to area stakeholders.
As one audience member pointed out after the presentations, the entities' competing "visions" don't necessarily seem in line with the overall goal of bringing more density and commerce. Even so, a number of projects in the city, county and state queues will have significant effects on the area.
METRO is in the planning process for a multi-modal Burnett Transit Center along the expanded North Line, adjacent to Hardy Yards, a forthcoming mixed-use development on approximately 50 acres of the former Union Pacific Rail Yard. The transit center will include six bus bays as well as bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Meanwhile, TxDOT is looking into alternatives for the contentious I-45 expansion project — one proposal includes converting the highway's loop around the city center into a sort of seven-lane, one-way, counterclockwise roundabout.
Harris County Sheriff's office representative John Dyess revealed that the department is working to implement a video visitation initiative, a plan for more video conferencing to reduce parking stress in the area where, as it stands, more than 1,500 visitors ascend on the facilities four days per week.
Tom Davis from the Mayor's Office spoke of an item on the city's wish list: The extension of San Jacinto Street north under I-10 and over the train tracks to Burnett Street. Though the project is a long way from being funded, the connection would drastically improve access to downtown for Near Northside residents.
Another significant project proposal is the diversion of Buffalo Bayou for a North Canal, as called for in the Buffalo Bayou and Beyond Master Plan. Although there is no timeline for moving forward, Harris County Flood Control District director Mike Talbott explained that the new canal could mean the prevention of another Tropical Storm Allison-type scenario, as well as big changes for the Warehouse District. (Also, it could signal the end of the CultureMap office on Wood Street, as one route for the canal travels through the building.)
The Houston Downtown Management District will use the feedback from Thursday's meeting to shape future meetings and action items for the area.