Since 2015, the Spring Branch Management District has been hard at work exploring and researching ways to help the area realize it’s potential and transform Spring Branch into a city area of the future.
One of the first and largest projects that the district has undertaken is the Long Point Reimagined Project that aims to transform the Long Point corridor area into a “Livable Center” and it all starts with a comprehensive study.
Livable Centers are places where people can live, work, and play with less reliance on their cars.
The Reimagined Long Point Livable Centers study was identified as one of four major action items from the comprehensive plan completed in 2015. Other major action items include flood damage reduction, a trail within the East-West Center Point easement that spans the district, and neighborhood stabilization and identity, which includes the renovation of Hayden Park at Woody and Long Point.
Principles of Livable Centers
1. More walkable
2. More transit-enabled
3. More connected
4. More visually appealing
5. More convenient, safe, and secure
6. Updated infrastructure
7. Improved environmental quality
Hayden Park Transformed
Hayden Park is currently in conceptual planning with ongoing public input. The idea for the park is three parks in one, a community park, a nature park, and a family park. The community park is located at the South of the site along Long Point, which today is vacant and undeveloped. Community activities and programming will complement the enhanced streetscape.
The nature park is located in the middle third of the site and will preserve existing trees and provide walking trails. The family park is located at the North of the site, closer to the residential fabric of the neighborhood, and will expand upon the existing playgrounds. An agreement between the city of Houston and CenterPoint energy allows for the construction of trails within CenterPoint’s Transmission Corridor easements. An existing East-West easement crosses the district and has the potential to connect White Oak Bayou and downtown to the east and the entire bio greenways network to Addicks Reservoir, the Terry Hershey Trail and the Energy Corridor to the West.
A two-mile segment of this trail is currently in preliminary design and would extend eastward. An existing trail segment that terminates at Northbrook highschool will connect to Buffalo Creek elementary school, St Jerome Catholic school, and Edgewood elementary school.
The district is located roughly 10 miles from downtown Houston with easy access to our two international airports. Spring Branch is also adjacent to other major neighborhoods and business centers, including the Heights, Uptown, the Energy Corridor, West Chase, Memorial City, and City Center. Houston’s bus network, recently upgraded through a system-wide reimagining, now more efficiently connects Spring Branch to the broader city.
Additionally, Houston’s recently approved bike plan proposes a grid of bike lanes across the district that will link to the future CenterPoint trail as well as the Bayou Greenway’s network and provide bike access and conductivity to both Long Point and the future high-speed rail that will connect Dallas to Houston.
Houston Bullet Train
The Houston to Dallas Bullet Train terminal will be located in Spring Branch with services projected to start in 2023. Information for the high-speed rail project is available at Texas Central.com or watch the video below to learn more. The real alignment will come down Hempstead Highway on an elevated track to a terminal northwest of the intersection of West 18th Street and Loop 610. The terminal will be a major hub forming an anchor at the east end of Long Point.
These transportation hubs have the potential to become major urban districts in their own right being located near the high-speed rail and the Spring Branch area will surely benefit.
The bullet train is expected to remove 14,630 cars daily from Interstate 45, which will save 81.5 million gallons of gas a year and will be using the safest technology in the world, while I-45 is the 2nd deadliest highway in America.
Houston Bullet Train Terminal Rendering
Well Thought Out Planning
The district schools are relatively evenly distributed throughout the district with Spark Parks supplementing the lack of public parks. The distribution of civic and institutional destinations, including shopping in community centers, police and fire stations, hospitals, clinics, libraries, schools, and religious institutions also shows that the community is a mature and built-out neighborhood fabric.
Many of the elected officials are highly engaged in the community and building for future prosperity. City council member, Brenda Stardig, and the district’s two county commissioners, Steve Radick and Jack Cagle, and state representative Dwayne Bohac, have all taken an active role in the reimagining of Long Point.
Long Point’s proximity to interstate 10 allows easy vehicular access via multiple freeway exits and the strong grid of streets across the district. Major development nodes will bracket the east and west ends of Long Point. At the west, Memorial City with City Center as a significant cultural and economic hub and at the east with the forthcoming high speed rail.
Long Point is the commercial corridor and “Main Street” of Spring Branch.
The development that will be spurred by the high-speed rail terminal has the potential to supply a large number of people to Long Point.
Improving Traffic Flow
Long point is five miles long from Conrad Sour to Hempstead. Long Point has a constraint right of way of only 60 to 70 feet for much of its length. This means that providing options for other modes of travel, for example, widened sidewalks or bike lanes, will likely require the reduction of automobile traffic lanes. This could include reduced lane widths and/or reduction of lanes from four to three lanes.
Other strategies include sidewalk and/or landscape easement agreements with adjacent private property owners to allow improvements on their properties . There are close to 400 private parcels along Long Point Rd with a few being relatively deep that would allow for the creation of major destination nodes along the street.
In consideration of the recently implemented reimagined metro bus service and the recently approved bike plan, there are approximately 72,000 people living within a one-mile buffer from Long Point, which is a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride and 244,000 people within a three-mile buffer, which is a 15-minute bike ride. If Long Point is transformed into a destination street, then these residents could have options of traveling to Long Point that do not require driving a car.
Many people both live and work in Spring Branch. Major employment areas for people living in Spring Branch but not working there include; Memorial City center, Uptown, Downtown, Greenway Plaza, and the Medical Center.
We want to create a sense of safety. Some tools include wide sidewalks, planting that separates the roadway from the pedestrian realm, clearly marked pedestrian crossings at vehicular intersections and signalized mid-block crossing. Opportunities for appropriate elements for enhancing the roadway include benches and street trees for shade, transit shelters, pedestrian lighting for safety, and signature planting.
Providing bus shelters, signage and reliable service promotes the use of the newly reimagined bus system and can help to shift reliance on only using cars for transportation. In addition, managing the number of access points to private properties can help to reduce roadway congestion.
We also see other opportunities for managing traffic, including the use of paint to create safe crossings and the introduction of parallel parking, where appropriate. To compliment traffic, engineering, and complete street principals, will now examine opportunities for creating a unique identity for the street.
The creation and use of character standards for the public right of way helps to organize the various users of the streetscape, including cars, transit bikes, and pedestrians.
Signature paving can help to identify special moments along the street, including intersections, outdoor seating areas and transit stops. Buildings can be located closer to the street edge to create a sense of enclosure and have windows along their storefronts to provide a visual connection between the interiors of the buildings and the street. This promotes a more vibrant pedestrian experience overall and a greater sense of safety for pedestrians at night.
Sidewalks are widened and separated from the roadway by street trees that provide shade and intersections are marked with signature plantings and safe pedestrian crossings. Working with the Spring Branch management district; property owners, business owners, and developers have a range of options in terms of enhancement on their properties from no engagement to landscape enhancement, to building upgrades and renovation, to demolition and new construction.
The district is interested in creating a cohesive streetscape that spurs economic development opportunities and will look to partner with interested parties to achieve that goal. To summarize, opportunities enhancements within the public right of way consist of efficient traffic, creating a street that is convenient and friendly to transit and bikes as well as vehicles, street trees for shade and identity, rerouting or burying overhead utility lines, vehicular and pedestrian lighting, signage and street character in branding.
For more information on the Livable Center Study focused on reimagining Long Point, please visit Spring Branch management district’s website at SBMD.org.
The video above covers the presentation of the first public meeting for the Spring Branch Livable Center study where we will reimagine Long Point. The Livable Center’s program is sponsored by the Houston, Galveston Area Council and Texas Department of Transportation.