Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The lone star approach

Texas is unique with a range of interesting planning related concepts:

Houston has only just adopted its first general plan, even Wamego had a plan (small town) to the credit of the city of Houston and their contractors, lead by design workshop, the plan took a mere 9 months to create. The General plan is similar to a comprehensive plan, but is all online, which means that it can be easily updated.

It is worth noting that, there is no option for counties or cities to administer zones in Texas, and as a result the land use pattren we see today is so unique.

In Houston, there is a sea of concrete and very little pedestrian activity visible, this is due to series of intertwined underground tunnels. This removes the human element from this petroleum fuelled zoo. This has removed the ground floor retail aspect from the commercial business core. There was a focus on providing priority to the motor vehicle.

We heard from Uptown Metro, who plan on utilising the TIF (Tax Increment Financing district) finances to fund a $200 million dollar BRT (Bus Rapid Transit system) one must wonder if light rail would be the chosen product if it were not for the outside pressure of the world's oil giants being located a short distance away in what can only be described as the ‘Energy centre of America’. The proposed route will help to ease congestion on Post Oak Boulevard. One point was raised in our discussions that I believe questions the validity of the project -  “an individual will not ride a bus to buy a Cartier watch.”

Austin, is a unique scenario. This web of freeways intertwined with city blocks is something different. Austin is trying to be like Portland, and be weird. This city with its abundant night life is suffering just like the rest of America when it comes to outdated infrastructure.
The new development of the former Airport Site is something to be seen, this sets a benchmark for mixed use, flexible age in place development.

Commonly referred to as the Lone Star state, Texas is unlike anything that I have ever seen before. This concrete jungle is emotionless, and baron like the back drop to every Texan western movie. It is a contrast to what we deem as normal, but as they do in Texas,  if it is not holding up to the congestion, build another lane.

Things are as they say, bigger in Texas!

Tim Norden