Beautifying Broadway

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Not that Broadway

Broadway between Hobby Airport and Interstate 45 may offer a first impression of Houston to first-time visitors, but not the one many civic boosters would like.

The 2 miles along the main road between the airport and the highway include strip developments and aging apartment complexes. Grassy medians along the road are scattered with few trees and shrubs. Little landscaping or lighting welcome travelers or residents coming home.

“Tired” is one word used to describe the area by Anne Culver, the president of Scenic Houston, a nonprofit working to raise $7.5 million to upgrade the area.

“You only have one shot at a first impression,” Culver said. “For many coming to Houston, that first impression is Broadway. … It’s not welcoming.”

Civic leaders envision a Broadway lined with oaks trees, flowers and shrubs in median. Gravel pathways and benches would be placed along the road in the now patchy esplanades. Art Deco-style LED lights would illuminate newly paved walkways and crosswalks.

The push to improve the street comes as Hobby is expected to bring an estimated 1.5 million new passengers annually into the area once its international terminal opens in the fall and as the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston nears.


Scenic Houston and the Hobby Area Management District, the district set up to boost economic development in the area, say it’s the right time to do whatever they can to make the area look as good as it can. They have set out a $7.5 million plan for trees and LED light fixtures up and down the roads. Along the esplanades, gravel and walkways would wind in between benches, flowers and the new lighting. Sidewalks would be improved. The groups are working to raise money from private donors and some funding will come from the management district.

“This was a great opportunity to step into the breach,” Culver said. “If you’re coming in from the airports, the first impression for miles is that the city is unattractive.”

I’d argue that the stretch of I-45 in from IAH, with its unending stream of used car lots, strip clubs, and billboards, is the uglier and worse-impression-making of the city’s entry points. At least Broadway provides a nice view of Sims Bayou. Still, I take their point. Any reasonable thing we can do to make the city look better is worthwhile. Given that TxDOT is already paying to rebuild the street, it makes all kinds of sense to make the upgraded street more functional, which in itself should help to make it more attractive. I tend to fly United so I don’t get this way that often, but I will look forward to seeing how this turns out.

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2 Responses to Beautifying Broadway

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I’m sure Houston could find something better to spend its money on that this. Isn’t it simpler to just use Airport Blvd. to get to I-45 anyway? Even if trees and flowers were planted, Broadway is a blighted area. Short of ripping down all those 70’s apartments and crappy strip centers, and starting over, we are talking about putting lipstick on a pig.

    I’m betting the most important thing to consider here is, who will get that $ 7.5M contract?

    Follow the money.

  2. Eastender says:

    They have created a management district for Hobby, and they expanded the Gulfgate TIRZ, so something is afoot in the area. Broadway is a first impression of Houston for people coming to Houston via Hobby, and it isn’t a good impression. Most people don’t realize there are neighborhoods on the upswing in the area, neighborhoods that at one time had parts up next to Sims bayou that were very pricey at one time. While the other improvements are great, the half-dozen or so apartment complex owners are getting to hold hostage an entire swath of Houston’s tax base in the area. Their run-down, poorly screened properties and tenant mix has driven down the area and slows its return. Hopefully these improvement will lead to some redevelopment in the area as well. Who knows.

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