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Studewood

You can still ask Metro to make changes to their new bus routes

Chris Andrews highlights a little Metro-related activism going on in my neighborhood.

Residents in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston have initiated a petition to modify the proposed 30 bus route.

Currently, the neighborhood is serviced by the 40 Pecore route. When METRO’s System Reimagining was proposed in early 2015, the 30 Clinton / Ella route was shown to continue on much of the route that is both the current 40 Pecore and 50 Heights routes. Unfortunately, the routes have since changed, leaving Woodlands Heights Residents without transit on Watson / Taylor / Sawyer streets. The originally drawn proposed 30 route was shifted to the east to Houston Avenue. This creates a duplicated north / south service with the proposed 44 Acres Homes route, which incidentally has the same, and if not better, level of service.

Residents propose shifting the 30 route back to the first proposed reimagined route (shown below), providing service to Watson / Taylor / Sawyer streets between Pecore and Memorial Drive. This would continue to provide service to areas serviced by the current 40 and 50 routes. Shifting the proposed 30 route to the west along Watson / Taylor / Sawyer streets would also provide access to the Target-anchored Sawyer Heights shopping center, as well as the 2100 Memorial senior apartments. (I can attest that a healthy number of residents who live at this complex use the current 50 route.)

[…]

METRO will continue to host public hearings regarding the new bus network, with a meeting on Wednesday June 3, 2015 at 6:00 PM, and another on Friday June 5, 2015 at 12:00 PM. Both meetings are scheduled to take place in METRO’s Board Room. View the METRO board meetings and notices page for more details.

Discussion about the disappearance of the 40 route and the subsequent petition first appeared on Nextdoor a couple of days ago. My initial reaction was along the lines of “um, you know that Metro announced these new routes a year ago, and formally gave the go-ahead back in February, right?” Turns out that even at this late date there are tweaks being considered, as you can see in the post above. Adding to the confusion a bit is that the system map displayed on the system reimagining website doesn’t reflect the current status. I like what has been proposed here, and as Andrews found on Twitter, so does Metro Board member Christof Spieler. I’m only a block away from Studewood, however, so this alternative would be great for me. Folks who live closer to the midway point between Studewood and Houston Avenue will be less well off. Make your voice heard while you still have time, that’s the message here. Link via Swamplot.

Heights-Northside mobility study

Mostly of interest for folks in my area, here’s the city’s report on mobility for neighborhoods in the upper left quadrant of the Inner Loop.

HeightsNorthside

Final Report: Heights-Northside Sub-regional Mobility Study

The Planning and Development Department, in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Engineering and Houston-Galveston Area Council, is pleased to announce that the Heights-Northside Sub-regional Mobility study has been finalized and can be downloaded (see links below).

After an extensive public comment period, the City received 125 comments regarding study recommendations, and letters from area organizations. Over the last several months, the project team has worked with City staff to evaluate all comments and provide responses to questions that were raised. Where appropriate, recommendations were modified to ensure that all final recommendations resulting from this study best serve the needs of the City and community, alike.

Final Report: Heights-Northside Sub-regional Mobility Study
Download Full Version (31 MB)

Download by Chapter:
I. Introduction
II. Existing Conditions
III. Community Involvement
IV. Defining Future Mobility Conditions
V. Changing Mobility Considerations
VI. A Balanced Approach: Corridor Sheets
VII. Outcomes
VIII. Next Steps

Appendix A: Data Collection
Appendix B: Thoroughfare Types
Appendix C: Transit Analysis
Appendix D: Hardy-Elysian Option Considerations
Appendix E: Travel Demand Results

Here’s the project website, which has archives of past community meetings and won’t be around much longer. I was alerted to this by Bill Shirley, who highlighted the following bit from the Corridor Streets section that was of interest to me.

“Pedestrian facilities along Studewood Street are in great condition north of White Oak Drive, but virtually nonexistent along the 4-lane segment of the roadway south of White Oak Drive which includes a 4-lane bridge. However, the use of this segment by pedestrians is evident by foot paths flanking both sides of the corridor. The contra-flow lane confuses drivers who are not familiar with its function, and additional signage could help mitigate this issue. The contra-flow lane also causes problems at major intersection due to the lack of protected lefts. At its northern boundary, the corridor terminates into a 6-legged intersection with E 20th/N Main Street/W Cavalcade Street. The current intersection configuration creates confusion, particularly for the pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate.”

I wrote about this awhile back, in the context of the new housing development that will be coming in across the street from the Kroger at Studemont and I-10, and how that area could be a lot more desirable, and a lot less of a burden to vehicular traffic, if that sidewalk were finished and bike options were added. The latter is known to be coming as part of the Bayou Greenways initiative, and it’s exciting to see that the sidewalk is at least on the drawing board as well. I don’t know how long term some of these projects are, but I’m looking forward to them.

Petition for safer walking and biking

From Marty Hajovsky:

Stephanie Riceman with the Heights Kids Group, a 900-strong (at least) group of families in and around the greater Houston Heights, has put together an interesting online petition that says as much about how many new families there are in the Heights as it does about the need to make streets safer for bike riders and  pedestrians.

The petition, entitled Safe Walking and Biking in The Heights, is aimed at Houston Mayor Annise Parker and District C Houston City Council Member Ellen Cohen and hopes to gather momentum to have intersections more safely managed throughout the neighborhood.  Here’s the very well-crafted preamble to the petition:

The Heights neighborhood is known for its small-town feel close to the heart of Houston. This community has cherished its tree-lined streets and preservation of walking and biking trails. These amenities sustain relationships among neighbors, make it easy to walk, jog, and bike to local businesses, or simply exercise.

Urban density is rising and a recent investment in roadway repaving has resulted in a greater volume of commuter traffic traversing our neighborhood at alarming speeds. In 2011, a young mother and wife was killed on our neighborhood’s walking trail while out for a jog because the signalized intersection at 11th Street and Heights Boulevard had not been properly managed for active pedestrian use.

Safety and mobility are a priority for our historic neighborhood. Heights residents want safe crossings for all pedestrians: fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers, parents with infants in strollers, children on bikes, senior citizens and others with mobility challenges that require greater consideration.

It is time for the City of Houston to invest in traffic management measures that provide for pedestrian, not just vehicular, movement and put the safety of our residents first.

And here’s the text to which organizers are asking people to affix their names:

We, the undersigned, call on the Mayor and Council for the City of Houston to perform these traffic calming measures:

1.    Installation of Pedestrian-Operated Signalized Crossings {Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB), HAWK System or equivalent} where the Bike Trail intersects with 11th, Yale and White Oak Streets.

2.    Implementation of a Barnes Dance (Pedestrian Scramble) intersection management plan at 11th Street and Heights Boulevard to ensure that no cars enter and idle in the four-lane boulevard and allow for the safe passage of pedestrians.

3.    Installation of a Pedestrian-Operated Signalized Crossing at Studewood and Bayland Streets.

We furthermore ask the City of Houston to make these pedestrian safety installations a priority to ensure the protection of our children and all pedestrians.

As someone who frequently crosses with his kids on bikes at the Nicholson/SP Bike Trail, I am proud to say that I have signed this petition and hope you all consider to so at well.   Crossing West 11th as an adult pedestrian at any point can be scary enough, but doing it with my kids, who are 12 and 15 and thus somewhat older, is downright terrifying.  If I imagine that my kids are younger and on bikes, I start to get extremely nervous at the mere thought.

I’ve signed it as well. Marty also plumps for a signal on 19th at the bike trail. I’d ask for the addition of a protected left turn from White Oak onto Studewood as well, as was finally done at West Dallas and Studemont. A side effect of the boom on White Oak has been the increasing difficulty of making that turn onto Studewood, even in the morning. There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic at this intersection now as well, as many people have to park east of Studewood to get to Fitzgerald’s or wherever, and having that would help. If you live or play in the area, please sign the petition as well. Thanks very much.

Studewood highrise update

Swamplot and Prime Property give us a look at what is to come for that six-story mixed-use building that’s currently under construction on Studewood just north of 11th. Well, what may come, as Swamplot’s choose-your-own-adventure photo spread indicates. I figured this was as good a time as any to check out the current progress of the construction, so I headed over the other day with my camera. Here’s a view from Studewood and 11 1/2, which is Key Street on the east side of Studewood:

The Studewood Highrise, which needs a snappier name

That bell tower you see in the background is actually a cleverly disguised cellphone tower. That’s how we roll here in the Heights. Here’s the south end of the property:

Someburger in your backyard

In addition to whatever they may have as ground-level retail or dining on this property, residents will have Someburger, Da Capo’s, the 11th Street Cafe, Andy’s, the forthcoming Liberty Kitchen and Oyster Bar, Berryhill’s, and Zelko Bistro all within a block. Not too shabby.

Finally, here’s a view from 11 1/2 Street:

The rear view

The lot is not that big, maybe three or four lots – you can see the Stop sign at Studewood on the left. There is a little bungalow right next door on 11 1/2, and houses across the street. I have no idea what they think about their new neighbor-to-be. Given that they’re still working on the first story, it’s got a ways to go before it’ll be done.

Washington Avenue lite

That’s what someone thinks White Oak Drive is becoming.

Is White Oak Drive becoming a cozier, more walkable version of nearby Washington Avenue as a restaurant-entertainment hub?

One local real estate agent thinks so.

White Oak is more concentrated with restaurants and bars in a much smaller area, said Jeff Trevino, a local commercial real estate agent who has done work on both streets.

Washington is three miles long and the restaurants and bars are spread out, he said. By comparison, White Oak is about a mile long, and many of the restaurants are popping up along a quarter-mile stretch between Studemont and Oxford.

BB’s Cajun Cafe recently announced it will open a new location on White Oak at Studemont.

Tacos A Go Go, D’Amico’s Italian Market, and Christian’s Tailgate are also planning to open soon there.

Already on White Oak are Onion Creek, a cafe and bar; Fitzgerald’s nightclub; Jimmy’s Ice House and Beer Island.

Most of the new restaurants are in old buildings, Trevino noted, which gives the area charm. A greater percentage of bars and restaurants along Washington are in new strip centers, he said.

It’s a little hard for me to judge the comparison, since none of these places are open yet. I’ll say this much – I have no idea where all of the patrons of these future eateries are going to park. The properties that are being rehabbed for the new venues didn’t have much parking space on them, and street parking is already at a premium thanks to Onion Creek. And if you look at a map of the area, there’s not much available on other streets nearby for the Studewood to Oxford area. If the Washington Wave were to extend service to White Oak would help some, but I don’t know how much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted to have all these places opening up so close to where I live, I’m just wondering how they’re going to deal with that.

Coming soon to an empty lot near me

Some neighborhood news from Swamplot.

Details on the 6-story mixed-use building being planned for the corner of Studewood and 11th 1/2 St. in the Heights will be announced “very soon,” a representative of the new property owner promises Swamplot.

[…]

They’re planning a cast-in-place concrete structure with an all- or mostly masonry exterior, containing apartments or condos and “some retail.” Also included: some multi-level parking and some “really cool green space.” Car entrances will be on both Studewood and 11th 1/2. The architect is from San Antonio; a local historical consultant is working to make sure the design is what the developer considers “period appropriate.” The long-vacant site is the former home of the Globe Laundry; the new project is registered under TCEQ’s Dry Cleaner Remediation Program, which the developer says doesn’t appear to require any solvent cleanup on the site. Vita Nuova plans to put a sign up soon announcing more details in the next 30 days.

Pictures and more discussion are there and at The Heights Life, which was first to note the activity. As with the other Heights highrise in the works for White Oak, I’m basically OK with this. Viula thinks six stories is a bit too tall for the area, but I don’t. I wouldn’t want to go much taller than that, but I think it’ll be all right. I’m not too worried about the traffic impact – the Starbucks drive-thru that one of the Swamplot commenters is rooting for would be much worse for traffic, as anyone who’s gotten caught in the snarls at the drive-thru on Shepherd just north of Westheimer can attest – though I do wonder how they’ll fit enough parking in. I also wonder if the ground floor retail will include a restaurant, as they are all the rage these days as development anchors. All in all, I think this will be fine and I look forward to seeing what they build.

By the way, we found out recently that the developer behind the White Oak highrise is an old neighborhood friend of Tiffany’s. Houston is such a small town sometimes.

Another contender for At Large #1

The following press release hit my Inbox today:

Lonnie Allsbrooks announced his intent to become candidate for At-Large Position 1 for the City of Houston.

Lonnie Allsbrooks, a successful small business owner from the Heights, has decided to run for the City of Houston At large Position 1. As a resident of Houston for the past 38 years, Lonnie Allsbrooks has come to value and appreciate this community, but has realized there is the potential for growth and change.

Lonnie stated, “The reason I am running for this position is to give the people of Houston a representative that is fair, honest, and genuinely willing to take the time to listen to the needs of the citizens of this community. I am that person.”

Lonnie Allsbrooks currently resides in the Heights where he owns and operates his small business, Beer Island. He is also in the process of opening a small café in the Heights called The Trail Mix. After the encouragement and support from other small business owners, Lonnie is excited about his decision to run for city council and the possibility of making a difference in the Houston community.

Beer Island, for those not familiar with it, is on the southeast corner of Studewood and White Oak, catty-corner from Fitzgerald’s. I attended a meeting of the Woodland Heights Civic Association a couple of years back after Beer Island and its across-Studewood neighbor the Sixth Street Bar and Grill opened at which the topic of discussion was the loud live music being played at those locations. I live about six blocks away, and there was one night I recall where I could sing along with the band from my front porch. The meeting was a bit contentious, but in the end everything appears to have been worked out – at least, I’m not aware of any current complaints, and I’ve not heard any more music from either of those location. That’s all I know about Lonnie Allsbrooks, who joins a field that includes Herman Litt, Steve Costello, and fellow Heights resident Karen Derr.