Transforming a “point of departure” into a true urban destination
Envision, for a moment, a Park and Ride that trades in sprawling expanses of concrete parking to become an urban destination – instead of just somewhere to catch a bus – a place where transit services meet a walkable main street framed by a new residential neighborhood, public gathering spaces and mixed-use development with hospitality, retail and other businesses.
That concept, proposed by The Energy Corridor District’s master plan, would create a heart pulsing with activity for a future driven by multi-modal transportation choices.
The plan would transform the Addicks Park and Ride into a high-capacity transit hub anchoring an urban plaza surrounded by mixed-use development. Meanwhile, a new street grid would be created north of IH-10 to improve mobility and better serve future businesses and their walking, biking or driving employees and patrons.
Dramatically, The District master plan does away with the Park and Ride’s vast parking lot, freeing up land to host a signature transit center for West Houston. Pulling off this grand vision would mean consolidating existing surface parking into garages and reconfiguring the current transit center and its HOV access ramps to the freeway.
The land would then be parceled, creating blocks and making land available for developing mixed-use properties. A traditional, finer urban street grid would be introduced in the area north of IH-10 and along Park Row, improving both pedestrian mobility and vehicular access. The beating artery of the transit center would be an east-west main street, built to encourage walking, biking and gathering.
“We face a future with more people, more employees and more pressure on our transportation network in West Houston,” says Clark Martinson, general manager for The District. “The master plan sees a future Addicks Park and Ride – now mostly a huge parking lot surrounded by some vacant or underutilized parcels – as a vibrant mixed-use destination completely integrated into a multi-modal transportation network.”
This spirited vision began percolating in 2010 with The District’s Livable Centers study, which envisioned a dense, vibrant heart for The Energy Corridor in and around METRO’s Addicks Park & Ride. That plan sought improved connectivity – especially for pedestrians and bicyclists – to nearby trails while proposing mixed-use development and a series of welcoming civic spaces. The 2015 master plan expands many of these core principles to the entire district, guiding development on a larger scale to collectively form a great urban center.
Polishing a stone into diamonds
The master plan transit center design developed by Sasaki Associates reconfigures and shortens the IH-10 access ramp, making a main street possible.
Then, by building parking garages that provide efficient access to the transit center and freeway ramp, the former METRO parking lot becomes a platform for substantial mixed-use development.
“Tying the construction of the transit infrastructure and garages to the development rights of the site will enable METRO to complete the project with minimal public investment,” Martinson explains.
To increase development potential for private investors, improved access to the site will be important, says Martinson. The new street grid, coupled with expanded transit and private vehicle adjacencies, will bolster the development value of the property, he explains.
The cohesive development plan calls for screening the large parking structures to enhance the visual and experiential quality of place in The Energy Corridor. Screens that “hide” the structures could range from trees to architectural details such as decoration. The garages could even become large-scale public art projects, says Martinson, iconic images that create a vivid statement for The Energy Corridor. Screening could also be used to enhance METRO branding while increasing the visibility of alternative transportation.
Minimizing the great divide
Another idea in The District’s Transit Center master plan would diminish the physical divide that IH-10 creates through The Energy Corridor – one that makes it difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists to traverse north-south.
A pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the Katy Freeway could connect the business campuses and neighborhoods south of IH-10 to the new transit center and existing Addicks Reservoir trails north of the interstate. The bridge might begin in Grisby Square, linking the popular restaurant district with The Energy Corridor’s next major destination – if the master plan has its way – making it easier to bike or walk across a major part of The Energy Corridor.
“It could serve as a grand architectural and engineering declaration, one that says biking and walking in West Houston are not only possible, but fun,” says Martinson.
The conceptual plan for the transit center and master plan was based on stakeholder input, case studies of successful development projects and an overarching vision of how The Energy Corridor can best meet future growth. For more on The District’s master plan, visit here.