Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

American Planning Association

An honor for Buffalo Bayou

Nice.

Buffalo Bayou’s transformation from a murky, yuck-inducing stream to a recreation destination earned Houston’s iconic natural resource a top honor from a national organization Wednesday.

The American Planning Association named Buffalo Bayou one of the nation’s 10 “great public spaces,” recognizing decades of efforts to turn the waterway into a vital urban amenity.

“A lot of people from other parts of the country don’t recognize how Houston is a city of people who love to be outdoors and it is a city in which you can be outdoors almost all year ’round,” Mayor Annise Parker said at a news conference outside City Hall, overlooking the weekly farmers market.

“Sometimes you might sweat a little bit, but it is an outdoor city and we are drawn to vibrant, interesting outdoor places,” Parker said.

The APA, the nation’s primary urban planning organization, annually recognizes great neighborhoods, streets and public spaces in cities around the country. It named Montrose one of the nation’s 10 great neighborhoods in 2009.

This year’s award singled out a nine-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou between Shepherd Drive and Turning Basin Overlook Park, highlighting the “distinctive design, amenities and public art; high level of public and private support; and ecological restoration and protection efforts.”

You can see the APA’s full list of Great Public Spaces here, and their other Great Places here. It’s a nice bit of recognition to get, and with the parks bond issue on the ballot it’s nicely timed as well. See the Mayor’s press release for more.

UPDATE: Apparently, Mayor Parker has dissed the Riverwalk in talking up Buffalo Bayou. Oops!

Three cheers for Montrose

Always nice to get recognition.

Montrose, the central Houston community known for its diverse lifestyles, vibrant street life and stately historic homes, is being honored by the American Planning Association today as one of the country’s 10 great neighborhoods.

Houston’s sprawl, absence of zoning and reputation for haphazard development might make its recognition by the national planning establishment something of a surprise. Yet the qualities cited in the award for Montrose — its walkable street grid, carefully preserved historic districts and eclectic mix of homes and businesses — reflect Houston’s preference for private rather than government-imposed planning, experts said.

In the early 20th century, long before it became the focus of slum-clearing urban renewal projects or the heart of Houston’s gay and lesbian community, Montrose was an elite master-planned suburb, said Stephen Fox, a Rice University architectural historian.

“Its planning has really come from the developers of the individual subdivisions rather than representing any public policy,” Fox said.

[…]

“It doesn’t have to always be a prescribed method of growth,” [David Robinson, the president of the Neartown Association] said. “It’s organic. The street grid, the sidewalks have meant that without zoning and for the most part without restrictive covenants, the area has been able to grow and adapt.”

The street grid — a web of straight streets with short blocks and none of the cul-de-sacs favored in suburban neighborhoods — has helped keep Montrose walkable since the days when people stepped off streetcars and walked to homes or shops, Robinson said.

David Morley, a research associate at the American Planning Association, said Montrose’s pedestrian-friendly nature was an important factor in the award.

“It’s one of the few places in Houston where people get out of their cars and walk around,” Morley said.

Congrats to Montrose and kudos to the APA for making such a good choice. I hope that as Montrose continues to gentrify and densify that its basic infrastructure needs are met so that it may be a great place where people want to live for many years to come. Hair Balls has more.