January Update

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JANUARY 11, 2013 :: DEVELOPMENT UPDATE

Dear RUDH members:

As we enter the New Year, RUDH would like to share with you some of our recent activities and thank you for your continuing support of our efforts on behalf of our greater Heights neighborhoods. Here are the recent developments.

New Residential Development @ Yale & 6th

Trammel Crow Residential is planning its first project in the Heights, at the corner of Yale and 6th Streets. At their request, Council Member Cohen invited RUDH to discuss our questions and possible concerns.  We prepared a three-page document outlining concerns that ranged from potential traffic impacts, streetscape greening and sidewalk connectivity, safe signalized crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed connections to existing bike trails and park spaces and a desire to ensure the appropriate architectural style to fit the fabric of our neighborhood. RUDH also coordinated with the landscape architectural firm that proposed designs to facilitate converting the new drainage detention pond into community park space (south of the hike and bike path and next to Rutland).  At the moment, there are currently no plans in place to make the new drainage detention pond into useable green space.

The good news from the meeting is that Trammel Crow is interested in working with RUDH and community leaders to transform this drainage detention pond into a public green space amenity. The developer also communicated their interest in investing in the surrounding streetscapes and infrastructure in a manner that promotes mobility and creates safe connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Trammel Crow Residential has committed to share their traffic and drainage studies with RUDH when they become available and stated they would perform mitigations as required by the City. We are hopeful this positive collaboration will lead to a sustainable development and mitigate any newly created problems.

There are no variance requests in their proposal and no tax reimbursement has been requested from or offered by the City of Houston. Their public hearing at the City planning Commission is scheduled for next week, January 17, 2013. This only concerns a replat of a number of smaller lots into a single unrestricted reserve for the new development.

          “Our goal on every development is to be a good neighbor and to create a development that positively reflects the area in which it’s built. We look forward to working with the Heights community on Alexan Heights.”
– Scot Davis, Trammel Crow

Here is the summary of the meeting:

Project Description
A 5-story, high-end multi-tenant rental property, situated on most of the block between Yale, 6th and Allston, offering 353 one-and two-bedroom units, priced between $1500 and 1800/month.  Property will include a two-story parking garage (one-story underground) with entrances on Yale, 6th and Allston; the design is for the units to be constructed around an interior courtyard, with a green space on top of the garage second story. Sidewalks, landscaping and shade canopy trees (likely, Live Oaks) will be planted around the property. A private fitness center for residents is currently planned for the ground level corner at Yale and 6th Streets. This is anticipated to be the “premier” property by TCR in Houston.

Project Status and Timeline
The preliminary design is complete (exterior will be mostly masonry, probably brick) and funding is in place; the second replat is underway. Closing will likely be in March, 2013.  A public hearing is planned for January 17 on the replat of the property lines. Construction is slated to begin in May or June of 2013 with the first phased opening and move-in scheduled for late 2014.

Traffic Impact Analysis not yet conducted; drainage plans are not prepared to date.  The developer’s intent is to gain approval from Centerpoint to bury electrical lines. Trammel Crow is also coordinating with CenterPoint in order to determine whether they can “beautify” the Centerpoint site on Yale adjacent to the development site.

Recommendations from RUDH
Signalization at the intersection of Yale and 6th Street should be re-evaluated due to the definite increase in pedestrian traffic there.  Crosswalks and working pedestrian crossing signals should be installed.

Installation of a signal north of the development where the Bike Path crosses Yale is also necessary, in view of the definite increase in traffic on Yale in both directions, as a result of the development.

 Potential Park at Rutland and 6th
We discussed the drainage detention pond near this location, on which TXDOT is planning to plant some trees. Unfortunately, TXDOT is also planning a concrete wall rather than a planted wall, which would be preferable for both aesthetic and absorption reasons. There is no budget at this time for park amenities, such as walking paths, landscaping, benches and a connection to the MKT bike path. We suggested that the City, TXDOT, Trammel Crow and a group of local organizations work together to turn this into a neighborhood park, utilizing—in part—the design suggestions already submitted by the White Oak Bayou Association (distributed at the meeting).

There is an example of such a park at 610 and S. Post Oak called the “Willow Waterhole” which is managed by a conservancy created by local residents (see links below).

Link to Swamplot article about the Detention Site: http://swamplot.com/whats-the-story-with-rutland-pond/2012-08-14/#more-45822
Link to info regarding the park at 610/Post Oak: http://www.wwgc.org/

Additional Developments @ Yale & I-10
RUDH has learned that both the San Jacinto Stone parcel and the parcel at the northwest corner of the I-10 and Yale Street may be under consideration for redevelopment. RUDH has not been engaged to discuss either of these sites and is not aware of any specific plans or any particular developer working to redevelop either of those properties. We await proposed plans and will continue to promote traffic mitigations, drainage detention and pedestrian friendly streetscapes and connectivity for both of these developments.

RUDH MEETS WITH MAYOR PARKER TO FIX ONGOING ISSUES
RUDH has been documenting and reporting infrastructure and landscape oversights at the Washington Heights/Walmart development for the past year. In early December, Mayor Parker and Andy Icken met with RUDH members to review these ongoing issues and implement solutions.

The City has confirmed that the incorrect tree list was used to specify plantings along Koehler, Yale and Heights Boulevard and that species from the Large Tree list will be replanted. RUDH has requested Live Oaks, in order to regain the canopy lost to this development.

Both CM Cohen and Andy Icken expression serious concern that the intersection at Koehler/Yale was not signalized for pedestrian crossings at all sides. Andy Icken committed to resolve this and we await the schedule for implementation of signals.

RUDH also requested that the sidewalk removed to install a turn-lane into the development (west side of Yale in front of SJS), be reconstructed—and possibly to bury power lines—in order to maintain continuous and safe connectivity for pedestrians. The City is coordinating a response, and we hope a positive resolution, to these and other issues.

This RUDH letter outlines the issues:
http://rudh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/RUDH-Ltr_MAP_Trees-CW-SW_Oct17-12.pdf

RUDH LOCAL BUSINESS COALITION :: UPDATE
In December, we created three LOCAL lists: SHOP, EAT and GET (Service industries). We posted the lists to our RUDH website and shared the link with our Facebook followers. Then, the wonderful owners of Antidote stepped up and donated $200 towards printing costs, RUDH added another $100 plus the volunteer manpower to turn the lists into postcards, deliver them to shopkeepers, take photos and Roll Call post them to Facebook. It was a great success and helped introduce everyone to our local businesses! If you’d like to donate to fund a second run of cards, please contact info@RUDH.org and we’ll do the rest.

Check the cards out online and share them with your neighbors! Go Local!
http://rudh.org/archives/500

BIKE SHARING PROGRAM KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR
A January 9, 2013 Houston Chronicle article outlined the exciting expansion plans for Houston’s bike-sharing program! The B-Cycle program currently has 18 bicycles at three downtown locations. Phase Two will add 182 bikes at 21 stations in downtown, Midtown, Montrose and the Museum District.

We’d like to see the Heights included in the next expansion! Send your Council Member an email or letter letting them know and copy Houston’s Director of Sustainability, Laura Spanjian.

District C Council Member Ellen Cohen: districtc@houstontx.gov
District H Council Member Ed Gonzalez: districth@houstontx.gov
Director of Sustainability: laura.spanjian@houstontx.gov
Chronicle article:
http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Bike-sharing-program-kicks-into-high-gear-4181173.php

HELP YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. DONATE TODAY.
With your support, our small group of volunteers continues to fight for public safety. RUDH is 100% volunteer run and all donations come from neighborhood residents. We operate with limited resources. Please help fund our efforts.
http://rudh.org/donations
or write a check to RUDH, PO Box 7834 Houston, Tx 77270

MEMBERSHIP
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Join us in promoting smart and sustainable development practices for our urban neighborhoods!

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