A compromise plan for the Kirby Drive drainage and redevelopment project received a generally positive response from about 50 residents who showed up at a Thursday meeting held by the Upper Kirby Redevelopment Authority.
A local advocacy group, Trees for Houston, protested the original version proposed by the redevelopment authority -- otherwise known as Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 19 -- because it would have widened Kirby from Richmond to Westheimer enough to require removal of the majority of the existing live oaks.
The TIRZ board held a public meeting on Sept. 15, after which it met with Trees for Houston representatives, Houston public works director Mike Marcotte, District C Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck and developer E.D. Wulfe, who acted as a mediator.
"With all the input ya'll gave us from that meeting and the e-mails, we've been able to come very quickly to what we think is a good resolution," said TIRZ chairman Sydney Buddy Bailey. "For those of you here on Sept. 15, I heard a lot of passion in the room. Passionate people came together and by that Friday after our meeting reached a compromise."
The impetus for the project comes from the need for better flood control in the Upper Kirby district. But the TIRZ wanted to take the opportunity to make streetscape improvements.
The Department of Public Works and Engineering initially indicated that meant lanes would need to be widened to the city standard of 11 feet.
The TIRZ also had proposed 14-foot wide medians to give pedestrians a 4-foot-wide landing space. This would have increased the amount of pavement on Kirby curb-to-curb from 66 feet to 80 feet.
Kirby now has three lanes in each direction that average 9 feet, 4 inches in width and a 10-foot continuous left turn lane.
The TIRZ prooposal called for sidewalks to be widened from an average of 4 feet in most areas to 6 feet.
The compromise calls for 73 feet of pavement from curb to curb where there is no left turn lane; 74 feet where the left turn lane is not signalized, and 77 feet at intersections where there is a stoplight to accommodate a pedestrian landing zone in the median.
The curbside lanes would be 11 feet wide; the middle and median side lanes would be 10 feet wide; and the esplanade would be 10 feet wide, expanding to 12 feet for a traffic barrier as needed at turn locations.
The sidewalks would still be expanded to an average of 6 feet, but the buffer zone would be about 3.5 feet wider on each side of the street than in the original plan to protect existing trees and pedestrians.