April 12, 2007
Stars Over Kirby update

Houstonist provides an update to the Kirby Drive beautification project that's in the works: For $1500, you can be a part of it directly.

To enable families and small businesses to contribute to the Kirby Drive All Stars program, which aims to beautify Kirby Drive from Holcombe north to Westheimer with intersection and sidewalk enhancements, the Kirby Coalition and the Upper Kirby District Foundation are selling 18-inch-by-18-inch sidewalk pavers on which people can inscribe their names.

Kathie Easterly, co-chairwoman of the Kirby Coalition and manager of the University Place Association, said the blocks would enable residents to leave their mark on Kirby.

"I'm down for a paver for my family and I do think the neighbors will be excited about it," Easterly said. "It's a wonderful way to commemorate your loved ones or business."

They do this sort of thing for buildings - the Planned Parenthood clinic on Fannin has a ton of inscribed bricks from its renovation in the 90s - so it's not an unusual idea. I'll be interested to see what kind of response they get. More information is here if you want in.

Corporations only have the option of making larger contributions ranging from $10,000 to $250,000, for which their pavers would be placed at an intersection.

The Kirby Coalition is now also working on foundation grant requests from both local and national organizations.


Phase one of the fundraising effort for the All Stars project needs to come up with $250,000 per intersection for upgrade elements, including a star motif inlayed into the middle of the street, brick crosswalks, landscaping, public art and construction costs. The intersections include Holcombe, University, Sunset, Bissonnet, Richmond, West Alabama and Westheimer.

Additional money raised in phase one will go toward a permanent maintenance fund and the second phase of the project, which would include additional streetscape upgrades along Kirby such as lighting, benches, garbage cans and light post banners.

That's pretty ambitious. They'll need some corporate sponsors, which may lead to some interesting outcomes - imagine "This intersection is brought to you by a generous grant from the Three Initial Corporation". Hey, if we can have Minute Maid Park, we can have the Bank of America Crosswalk. No point getting all coy now.

The project kicked off in January and [[Travis Younkin, director of captial projects for the Upper Kirby Management District,] said the district plans to do an evaluation in June to determine how much money has been raised.

"I know if we continue on the pace we are on we hope to have enough funds raised to implement the Rice Village intersections with the City of Houston Storm Sewer Relief Project," Younkin said.

Coordinating efforts with the Kirby Drive Storm Sewer Relief Project will save money on construction and costs associated with having to block off parts of the street from traffic. It is too late to coordinate for the Holcombe intersection, but Younkin said the coalition hopes to be able to follow the city north down Kirby for each of the other intersections.

"We're trying to do everything at one time so things are only disrupted once," he said.

Ah, the storm sewer project. I have to say, they're making great progress - everything south of Holcomb should be open soon, and some parts of Kirby north of Holcomb have already been repaved. That's the good news - the bad news, of course, is that they'll be tearing things up north of University, where the real traffic is, any day now. I get ill just thinking about it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

Here's the latest on the Kirby storm sewer project as presented to the University Place Association annual meeting on April 10th by representatives of Public Works and Turner Collie and Braden:

Segment 2, which is now in progress and runs north to Swift, is currently 80 days behind schedule and held up at the moment by safety issues with the trenching.

A new contractor takes over for Segment 3 which runs from Swift north to Robinhood. Work on this phase will commence as soon as all Segment 2 sewer boxes are laid, but before repaving, no earlier than June of this year. There will be work going on concurrently on Segments 2 and 3 while Segment 2 is being paved. Segment 3 has a 470 day time line, including a 76 day slowdown during the holidays to facilitate traffic flow. Completion is set for August '08 at the earliest. ( A side note here: Businesses on the west side of Kirby will be without access for periods of at least two weeks while the construction passes by, as the city of West University does not allow access to commercial developments fronting Kirby from the city's east-west side streets). Meanwhile, just east of Kirby, construction of the Sonoma, the 7-story development on Bolsover between Kelvin and Morningside which promises to redefine Village living, will be underway at this time.

Segment 4 includes new sewer lines north from Robinhood to Quenby, then east on Quenby to Greenbrier or thereabouts, and repaving of Kirby as far north as 59. Segment 4 is currently scheduled for a January '09 start with completion in March 2010.

And finally, you may notice that the intersection at Kirby and Holcombe was paved with asphalt rather than concrete (at the behest of the Kirby beautification folks) to facilitate installation of the new paving design and crosswalks when the money becomes available. This of course will necessitate tearing up the intersection yet again.

Start scouting your alternate routes now.

Posted by: robt on April 12, 2007 11:24 AM