February 07, 2008
Some news about Washington Avenue

One of the more interesting comments I got on this post about the Legacy at Memorial highrise construction was to say that the Archstone Memorial apartments on Washington between Studemont and Waugh were going to be torn down in favor of something more high-end. Which feels a little odd, since those apartments were one of the true pioneers for that area and its ongoing gentrification. It's like the passing of an era.

Anyway, a few days later I received this PDF file of a newsletter for Super Neighborhood 22, which encompasses that part of town. Apparently, Archstone wants to get the city to abandon the right turn lane from eastbound Washington to southbound Studemont, which is actually a continuation of Court Street, and the triangular green strip that bounds it. The SN22 people, who support the new development, oppose this aspect of it. Here's some info from the newsletter:

With the support of Councilmember Adrian Garcia, our recent action to deny a variance request for a major unrestricted reserve re-plat on Washington Avenue received a favorable vote from the Planning Commission. Through the action of Commissioner Kay Crooker, Superneighborhood 22 has been presented a rare opportunity to work in cooperation with Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 5 (TIRZ 5) - Memorial/Heights and the developer of Archstone Properties.

We support Archstone's re-development concept for the 28.10 acres fronting on Washington Avenue, Studemont, and Waugh Drive. The current plan to be realized over a 5-year period features mid-rise mixed-use at the Washington/Studemont corner, and a series of six mid-rise residential nodes with incorporated garages on a new internal central Paseo that will parallel Washington Avenue mid-way through the complex.


In addition to the denied variance request, Archstone is asking for abandonment of two City properties - the small Studemont Spaceway just south of Washington on the west side of Studemont, and the Court Street right-of-way that creates a right turn lane from eastbound Washington to southbound Studemont and the long triangular splitter island that separates Court Street from the Studemont main lanes. The second will require rebuilding the intersection to conform with a standard four-way signalized intersection format. Archstone suggests visiting their nearly completed Esplanade project on Hermann Drive west of Almeda for a representation of product quality.


TIRZ 5, in exchange for these COH properties, offers to create a linear park in the former rail spur right-of-way running along the west side of Memorial-Heights Boulevard between Washington Avenue and the north side of the former Ed Sacks property on which permits have recently been let for a 25-floor residential tower, a group of cabana apartment units and a parking structure.

We have been asked by Archstone to provide a letter of support for these abandonments. While we are inclined to support the Spaceway abandonment in exchange for the new linear park, we find the Court Street right-of-way abandonment unnecessary, unwise and not in the best public interest.

In concurrence with a suggestion from Planning Commission Chair, Dr. Carol Lewis, SN22 has requested that COH/PWE evaluate the safety of the Court Street turn lane, and install appropriate signage to eliminate the confusion and misdirection of traffic.

It is our opinion that attractively landscaped large splitter islands with mature trees add unique character and a sense of place to our urban streetscape - qualities that should be preserved and encouraged along Washington Avenue, and that are consistent with the precedent set by the Washington on Westcott (WOW) Roundabout. Splitter islands enhance pedestrian mobility in active mixed-use areas by enabling safer crossings of the entire intersection.

Interesting stuff, and still a little amazing to someone like me who remembers what that area used to look like. I should note that SN22 has been gathering information about this proposed abandonment and other related matters affecting that area, and are seeking public input, especially from people who pass through the Washington/Studemont intersection. Obviously, when abandonments are being sought, the more input, the better. There's a lot of quality of life issues at play - mobility, green space, drainage - in an increasingly dense part of town. You can go to this link to offer your feedback: http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/nbhd_svces/TechCntrInfo/SN_22.htm. Thanks very much.

On a side note, while Googling around for more info about this, I found this Nancy Sarnoff column from August which notes that the same folks now building on the Ed Sacks site also own all the land on the east side of Montrose from Allen Parkway to West Dallas, which includes where the Robinson Warehouse used to be. Though there was talk in that column about integrating the two properties somehow, I'd say that's off the table now.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 07, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

The land on Montrose south of Allen Parkway was purchased by the Aga Khan foundation in 2006 for an Ismaili Center (which is why the warehouse was demolished). The Sarnoff article you're linking to is from 2004.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on February 7, 2008 7:03 AM
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