The ECD has pipeline full of projects for 2015
The Energy Corridor District has a busy year in store, with a slate of work tackling both present and future challenges – from enhancing intersections with designs that will improve the pedestrian experience, to producing a master plan with an aspiring vision to make a more livable, workable place.
Despite falling crude oil prices, development continues at a healthy pace, with companies looking to The Energy Corridor as a sought-after destination for new offices and campuses. Already, most of the 5.5 million square feet of offices under construction in The Energy Corridor are pre-leased. More than 5,000 multi-family units are also under construction.
That development means more jobs and more people are on their way to The Energy Corridor, no matter the price of oil, making The District’s 2015-2034 Services, Improvements and Assessment Plan a fundamental blueprint for the region’s future livability.
“Many analysts expect continued growth for Houston in 2015, around 2- to 3-percent,” explains Clark Martinson, general manager for The Energy Corridor District. “Growth will taper off from the furious pace we’ve experienced, but Houston is still expected to attract 3 million newcomers by 2025. We need to work hard now to make sure The Energy Corridor remains one of the premier places to live, work and invest.”
The District grabbed the leadership reigns for regional planning when it was created in 2001 by the Texas State Legislature and took a pivotal role in the widening of IH-10 and a host of transportation, beautification and security projects designed to improve quality of life. By renewing The District’s Service Plan this year, property owners can lock down an advocate dedicated to making The Energy Corridor a more livable place now and for decades to come, explains Clark Martinson, general manager for The District.
In 2015 The District is ramping up its charge to enhance public security, beautification and one of the top regional concerns, transportation mobility.
For public safety, more patrol hours are being added, with increased pay to The District’s officers, all members of the Houston Police Department.
As an encore to winning a 2014 Arbor Award from Trees for Houston, The District will intensify its beautification work, with plans to invest more on landscaping and maintenance along IH-10, where it added miles of mulch last year to keep thousands of trees and plants nourished and healthy.
Keeping The Energy Corridor moving has always been a priority for The District, says Martinson, and in 2015 The District will move forward on several mobility projects.
Pedestrians and motorists will see improved safety when work enhancing six major intersections along IH-10 begins this year. Busy intersections from Kirkwood to Barker Cypress are being redesigned to make it easier to bike and walk around The Energy Corridor.
Traffic flow along Eldridge Parkway and SH 6 remains a priority. The District is working with The City of Houston and traffic consultants to improve signal timing and explore left turn lane enhancements that could help mitigate rush hour congestion.
“The key to Eldridge Parkway,” says Martinson, “is improving access to local businesses while enhancing the characteristics of the street. We want to improve not only traffic flow but also walkability and neighborhood aesthetics.”
Several designs that could transform Eldridge have been envisioned; some are part of a farsighted master plan now being developed by The District and urban planning firm Sasaki Associates.
The master plan – being built on months of meetings with District stakeholders, METRO and others – is creating a possible future where new public gathering spaces are created, business campuses are better connected and people can walk more safely. The final master plan will be unveiled in March.
METRO has unveiled its Reimagining METRO plan with revamped bus schedules and routes for The Energy Corridor. The District remains steadfast to continue advocating with METRO for more bus frequency and routes that better serve commuters. Meanwhile, The District is exploring other transit options, such as a circulator route that could tie together major business campuses and the Addicks Park and Ride.
To make sure The Energy Corridor gets its due when it comes to future road building and transportation solutions, The District will continue working closely with the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), the eight-county authority that determines transportation solutions and funding for the region. After a series of public meetings last year, the West Houston Mobility Plan and H-GAC’s $77 billion 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will be finalized in the coming months. Once funding is agreed upon, projects will be prioritized and incorporated into H-GAC’s 2040 RTP Phase 2.
The Woonerf streetscape project, a pilot program designed to create a safer place to walk and bicycle, is in its final construction stage on Fortsmith Street in Grisby Square. Improving the restaurant destination’s aesthetic appeal is part of the project, which features a permeable road surface and storm sewer improvements to facilitate better drainage. The District hopes the Woonerf pilot project could serve as a model for creating more walkable streetscapes in The Corridor.
Encouraging commuters to leave their vehicles at home and take alternative transportation to work remains a challenge. The District is working to add a third installation of its ground-breaking CarShare program that provides shared vehicles at work for those taking vanpools, carpools, buses, bicycles or their own two feet to work. CarShare vehicles can be conveniently rented for any reason, providing peace-of-mind to anyone concerned about leaving their personal ride at home.
The District has long sought to expand uses for the Addicks Park and Ride. On April 4, The District gets its wish when the site will host EnergyFest 2015. The larger venue, an increased budget and a title sponsor will allow more people and local businesses to join the festival, now in its third year.
“Festivals not only create a destination, they promote an area and help people discover what it offers,” says Martinson. “One reason we launched EnergyFest three years ago is to help develop a sense of community here.”
There are more major projects in the works, including part two of the Park Row expansion. The first phase was completed last year and eventually the road will run from SH 6 to Eldridge Parkway, connecting the Addicks Park and Ride with business campuses on Dairy Ashford and several new ones now springing up along Park Row.
“These are exciting and challenging times for The Energy Corridor,” Martinson muses. “It is our mission to help The Energy Corridor be one of the nation’s premier places to work, live and invest. We believe strong leadership over the long haul coupled with a can-do approach can make this special place more livable and vital than it already is.”