March 28, 2008
Density and walkability on Montrose and Studemont
I've mentioned before that I lived in Montrose for nearly ten years, before I bought a house in the Heights. From 1993 to 1997, I lived on the northern end of Montrose, near Montrose and West Dallas. There wasn't much there back then - lots of rental housing, empty lots, and a few small businesses. It was a funky, kind of run-down but still interesting urban neighborhood.
Well, a lot has changed since then, and there's a lot more change to come. I've blogged about quite a bit of it, and will keep doing so as the area keeps evolving. I think a lot of good things have happened, along with a few not-so-good things, and I think there's the potential for a lot more good to be done. I also think there's the potential for all the changes to have a lot of negative effects, mostly having to do with overwhelming the infrastructure, and I think it's important to keep an eye on what's happening.
So towards that end, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to take a bunch of photos of the area; basically, the stretch of Montrose/Studemont from West Gray to Washington Avenue. I did this partly to document what it looks like now - if you used to live there but haven't seen it in awhile, you'll be amazed - and partly to point out what I think can be done to make the eventual finished product better. I've compiled the pictures, along with my comments, into a Flickr photo set, which you can also view as a slideshow - click on Options, then Always Show Title And Description to see my comments if you view it this way.
My thesis is simple. This is already an incredibly densely developed corridor, and it's going to get more so as the new high rise is built and several parcels of now-empty land get sold and turned into something else. It's already fairly pedestrian-friendly, but that needs to be improved. And for all the housing in that mile-long stretch of road, there's not enough to do. Not enough places to eat and drink, to shop and recreate. Midtown has a lot more such options, and I think this area has at least as many people. I think there's an opportunity being missed, and I think with a little vision, this part of Montrose can be a real activity hub.
Anyway, that's how I see it. Take a look at the pictures and let me know what you think.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 28, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston
I'd like to see Montrose truly claim the Montrose/Westheimer intersection as a destination. The strip center on the southwest corner appears to be dying a slow death. It would be wonderful if it were razed to the ground, and rebuilt closer to the street like the northeast corner; creating an intimate hub of activity.
I used to live in Montrose/Midtown (just off W. Alabama near the Spur) until I moved recently close to Memorial Park. As I bike to work downtown, and often elsewhere, that particular area has been of peak interest for me due to its "bike unfriendliness".
To get from one side of the Memorial/Allen Parkway corridor between Memorial Park and downtown, there are limited options. Shepard, Waugh/Heights, and Montrose/Studemont (there are two pedestrian bridges -- one at Jackson Hill and the other at Sabine).
On a bike, Waugh/Heights is the 'best' option, but still horribly poor compared with other cities. Car traffic on Montrose/Studemont and Shepard travels well beyond the speed limit (over 50 mph often), making biking a bit hairy there. Waugh is better, but once crossing Allen Parkway/Memorial, car traffic also speeds up between there and Washington.
Thus, beyond amenitites like restaurants and shopping, I wish more basic ones like better lanes and pedestrian paths would be integrated.
Of course, this is Houston, where the car (or should I say glorified mini-van known as the SUV) is king.
A pedestrian has equally poor options as the sidewalks disappear
I live a little south of West Gray, and I walk quite a bit to a variety of shops and restaurants in my neighborhood. Especially at this time of year. Walking up to Westheimer takes maybe ten minutes, over to Barnabys on Fairview ten, to the Krogers on West Gray maybe 15.
My biggest complaint would be lack of sidewalks, but most of the streets are pretty quiet and aren't that big of a deal to walk on in lieu of sidewalks.
"I'd like to see Montrose truly claim the Montrose/Westheimer intersection as a destination. The strip center on the southwest corner appears to be dying a slow death. It would be wonderful if it were razed to the ground, and rebuilt closer to the street like the northeast corner; creating an intimate hub of activity."
I heard a rumour that this is happening; that's why the Blockbuster and Eckerd sites haven't been re-leased. Supposedly the building will be replaced with a multi-story mixed-use building--retail on the ground floor, a couple of floors of parking, and residential above that. I'm guessing 12 or 15 floors altogether. BUT, it won't be any closer to Westheimer; it'll use up the back half of the block instead.