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Museo Plaza: Mixed-Use For The Museum District, 58-Story High-Rise


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53 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

All true, except, from Page 2 of this thread:

image.png.8243aed8609ed0fd3488c6a97691abf3.png

Fannin seems on its way to becoming a gloomy chasm, like certain other stretches of Fannin. What would make a difference?

- Wide sidewalks, 15 feet absolute minimum

- Trees between road and main sidewalk area

- Banning skybridges in TOD areas, to include all of Museum District and Midtown

- Brick crosswalks around intersections, with a rumbly feel to calm traffic down

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29 minutes ago, Houston19514 said:

That rendering does not include the third building (presumably the hotel building)...

They did the weird “ghost building” thing in the right of the rendering to suggest a building that’s there but, presumably, has not been conceptually finalized yet.

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3 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

I've just explained why they should be limited. We aren't a pure laissez-faire city, that's a myth. We banned billboards and have been buying out the ones that are grandfathered. We banned most forms of signage downtown. We've created parking minimums and setback laws. There are something like 17 scenic districts and I forget how many historic neighborhoods. The pure laissez-faire Houston is long gone and most people appreciate the improvements. Banning skybridges in transit-oriented-development areas would be another improvement.

Pretty sure many people on this very forum (and in fact, urbanists and city planning types in general) call for the abrogation of parking minimums and setback laws because of the perceived negative effects they have on cities and their planning, such as encouraging car usage. In a situation where people already think our laws are unnecessary or should be repealed, I am not really for adding another unnecessary law on top of that.

 

3 hours ago, houstontexasjack said:

From a property rights standpoint, skybridges over public rights-of-way are not “laissez-faire.” Those rights of way have been planned out and are part of the public “bundle of sticks” we get for living in the City of Houston. There’s no right to a skybridge over public ROW. This isn’t a building line or other restriction on Dr. Mann’s property. We are talking about a use of property (the ROW) in the public domain.

And there is no real public use excuse to prevent this bridge from being built. It doesn't impede the road in any way, nor have any negative effect on it or traffic. The city doesn't really have a justification for impeding its construction.

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1 hour ago, Big E said:

Pretty sure many people on this very forum (and in fact, urbanists and city planning types in general) call for the abrogation of parking minimums and setback laws because of the perceived negative effects they have on cities and their planning, such as encouraging car usage. In a situation where people already think our laws are unnecessary or should be repealed, I am not really for adding another unnecessary law on top of that.

You found two laws which should probably be revised due to unintended consequences. It does not follow from that that any/all laws regulating development are bad. 

 

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1 hour ago, Big E said:

It doesn't impede the road in any way, nor have any negative effect on it or traffic. The city doesn't really have a justification for impeding its construction.

This is another statement that doesn't follow logically. There are many reasons a city might choose to enact regulations on development other than impeding traffic on a road. It is in fact kind of silly that you think the only harm that a development could possibly do to a streetscape is to slow vehicular traffic. 

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6 hours ago, Big E said:

And there is no real public use excuse to prevent this bridge from being built. It doesn't impede the road in any way, nor have any negative effect on it or traffic. The city doesn't really have a justification for impeding its construction.

It’s a property right the city possesses. The default is that the builder has no right to build into the ROW without city permission. So, in light of the city’s goals with respect to walkable neighborhoods, I think the developer should be a good justification for how the the skybridge would benefit the surrounding area. 
 

(I do think, if the skybridge is a “must,” offering public realm improvements in exchange for the right to construct the bridge is a fair ask)

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16 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

It's not that you'll inspire people to walk around by forcing them down to the street level (although maybe they'd be slightly more likely). It's that having a skybridge over a street hurts the streetscape for anyone else. It says "Special people up here - plebeians down there." Think of any great street that people like to walk around on. Lower Main Street. South Congress or 6th Street in Austin. Houston Street in San Antonio. McKinney Street in Dallas. The Strand in Galveston. Anywhere in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Now picture a skybridge - just one skybridge - going over that street. Terrible!

Plus, it sets a precedent. Think this will be the last medical building in the Museum District? And every medical building will have to have a skybridge for their patients so they don't die. Next thing you know, the Museum District is Medical Center North, and we will mourn the neighborhood that might have been.

I think you do have a point but I also think this is a case of correlation without causation. The Avenida De Las Americas is pretty damn pedestrian friendly especially when it’s shut down for events and it has 2, kind of three skybridges going over it. 
 

I don’t feel like some subhuman when I walk under them, in-fact I hardly notice them. Most of those places you mentioned don’t have buildings that would even need skybridges.

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7 hours ago, jmitch94 said:

I think you do have a point but I also think this is a case of correlation without causation. The Avenida De Las Americas is pretty damn pedestrian friendly especially when it’s shut down for events and it has 2, kind of three skybridges going over it. 
 

I don’t feel like some subhuman when I walk under them, in-fact I hardly notice them. Most of those places you mentioned don’t have buildings that would even need skybridges.

I think you're setting the standards pretty low. Avenida de las Americas is so-so pedestrian friendly, pedestrian tolerable you might say. It is no great street. And I don't think that it's what we're going for in a neighborhood of museums and other cultural institutions.

Think of streets that you would want to take a photo of. Have you ever taken a photo of a street that had skybridges going over it? 

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I feel this is the wrong project to get mad about skybridges. He is catering to clients and making it comfortable for them. They will come out post-surgery and be able to get to rest with ease. They can avoid direct sunlight after eye work and the heat in Houston summers. It is bougie but that is the point. I will also say I have enjoyed the skybridges in the med center. It is easier to push someone in a wheelchair in a skybridge. My wife was still in her hospital gown and would have never wanted to go outside and appreciated the privacy of the skybridge. I get it downtown or for the Marriot but in the Med Center they serve a different purpose.

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30 minutes ago, thatguysly said:

I feel this is the wrong project to get mad about skybridges. He is catering to clients and making it comfortable for them. They will come out post-surgery and be able to get to rest with ease. They can avoid direct sunlight after eye work and the heat in Houston summers. It is bougie but that is the point. I will also say I have enjoyed the skybridges in the med center. It is easier to push someone in a wheelchair in a skybridge. My wife was still in her hospital gown and would have never wanted to go outside and appreciated the privacy of the skybridge. I get it downtown or for the Marriot but in the Med Center they serve a different purpose.

I am sure we all appreciate being able to push patients over skybridges when we go to the hospital. Do you want the Museum District to turn into an extension of the Medical Center? Is that your vision for this neighborhood?

Does anyone have any vision for this neighborhood, other than "something better than what was there before"?

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3 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:

I am sure we all appreciate being able to push patients over skybridges when we go to the hospital. Do you want the Museum District to turn into an extension of the Medical Center? Is that your vision for this neighborhood?

Does anyone have any vision for this neighborhood, other than "something better than what was there before"?

I mean this is attached to a medical facility. I doubt any residential part of this project or hotel guest that aren't clients of Mann-Eye will just not use the skybridge since they have no need to go to the medical building. Thus they will go to street level as we would hope they would.

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This is such an odd hill to die on.  What is Fannin?  It isn’t a great street that is for certain, if anything it ought to be reduced from the lanes it has to something more pedestrian friendly.  Putting in a skybridge or not putting one in will not make or break the street.

Do I want the Med Center to extend further north and consume the quasi district we call “The Museum District”?  I don’t know?  Maybe; the MD is such a hodge-podge of buildings, I mean, isn’t The Menil considered a part of it?  Several miles away.  That’s ludicrous.

I would have rather seen a greater push for museum district uniform development - like building the new HSPVA in the place of any of the newer apartments that have been constructed along the periphery.  Since we are talking wishfully here.

We have some great museums, but maybe we ought to focus on Binz and turning it into a great street before we get upset that a few blocks north just beyond what we would consider the actual district there is a sky bridge for a medical development.

What then do you think of the tunnels under Fannin and Main?  Those were made more interesting by an artist, but they’re still tunnels for the sake of being tunnels to allow people to transit between museum buildings without having to engage the street.  I realize it is partially for security reasons, as it allows a central entry point and then you can have guests move freely through your properties, but they are still tunnels.  In a city where tunnels killed off any semblance of normal urban development in the 1970s-1990s downtown.

If anything, @H-Town Man you might want to hang your hat on the fact the architecture isn’t very good for such a large development.  I get the issue with tunnels and sky bridges, I do, but again, not with regard to anything medical.  The precedent for being upset with that passed over a decade ago when the TMC built a loop of skybridges all over the area.

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4 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

Think of streets that you would want to take a photo of. Have you ever taken a photo of a street that had skybridges going over it? 

Chelsea Market's skybridge and Herald Square's sky bridge are both pretty photogenic. 

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52 minutes ago, SMU1213 said:

Chelsea Market's skybridge and Herald Square's sky bridge are both pretty photogenic. 

I'll say it again... Think of a street that you would want to take a photo of. Did that street have skybridges over it?

Notice that this is different than saying, "Can skybridges be photogenic?" Sure, they can be photogenic. The skybridge at the Enron buildings on Smith Street is very photogenic. But... do great streets have skybridges over them?

I can't make you see this if you aren't willing to see it. I can't convince you if you don't want to be convinced. This requires openness and a certain willingness to notice something about the world that you hadn't noticed before.

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3 hours ago, arche_757 said:

This is such an odd hill to die on.  What is Fannin?  It isn’t a great street that is for certain, if anything it ought to be reduced from the lanes it has to something more pedestrian friendly.  Putting in a skybridge or not putting one in will not make or break the street.

Do I want the Med Center to extend further north and consume the quasi district we call “The Museum District”?  I don’t know?  Maybe; the MD is such a hodge-podge of buildings, I mean, isn’t The Menil considered a part of it?  Several miles away.  That’s ludicrous.

I would have rather seen a greater push for museum district uniform development - like building the new HSPVA in the place of any of the newer apartments that have been constructed along the periphery.  Since we are talking wishfully here.

We have some great museums, but maybe we ought to focus on Binz and turning it into a great street before we get upset that a few blocks north just beyond what we would consider the actual district there is a sky bridge for a medical development.

What then do you think of the tunnels under Fannin and Main?  Those were made more interesting by an artist, but they’re still tunnels for the sake of being tunnels to allow people to transit between museum buildings without having to engage the street.  I realize it is partially for security reasons, as it allows a central entry point and then you can have guests move freely through your properties, but they are still tunnels.  In a city where tunnels killed off any semblance of normal urban development in the 1970s-1990s downtown.

If anything, @H-Town Man you might want to hang your hat on the fact the architecture isn’t very good for such a large development.  I get the issue with tunnels and sky bridges, I do, but again, not with regard to anything medical.  The precedent for being upset with that passed over a decade ago when the TMC built a loop of skybridges all over the area.

Thank you for these thoughtful comments. I guess the fact that MFAH spent so much money to build tunnels instead of much cheaper skybridges shows that they too recognize that skybridges are not good for a neighborhood. Which is no surprise since they are well acquainted with the aesthetic dimension of things. As to why they built tunnels, which admittedly are anti-urban, I think that is a practical consideration born of the difficulty of charging people $19 to enter a multi-building complex. If people are constantly exiting and reentering the paid admission area, that creates challenges. There was probably also some concession to the preferences of their clientele for air-conditioning and ease of movement, especially the elderly. Perhaps the big donors had some say in it. Donors usually do.

As to district boundaries, I think we should be able to agree that the Museum District proper is roughly bounded by Hermann Park to the south, the Southwest Freeway to the north, Montrose Blvd to the west, and Almeda to the east. The commercial part of this district includes the arterial thoroughfares of Montrose, Main, Fannin, and San Jacinto, with maybe Binz as an east/west thoroughfare. East of that is the more residential portion. 

If we accept that definition of the Museum District, what do we have? The residential area is mature and aesthetically pleasing with a leafy atmosphere and a serene, staid quality. The commercial area is a shambles. You have a nice assemblage of museum and church institutions along Main and Montrose, but the potential retail areas along Fannin and San Jacinto are more or less a blank canvas of small old buildings with no contributory value to the land. Because there is little of interest commercially in the MD, it is not an interesting place to walk around unless you are a resident out for exercise. No memories are created in the Museum District. Nobody fell in love sitting at a cafe there. 

What should go on this canvas? Medical buildings? To the extent that we can encourage a certain vision without destroying the sacred principles of the free market that we all agree have made Houston and America great, I would say that it should be something like the Bloomsbury and Covent Garden areas of London, especially around the British Museum. Leafy, tranquil, walkable. Lots of little shops and cafes. Probably won't be as dense. Hyde Park in Chicago and Georgetown in D.C. are good domestic models. The Cultural District in Fort Worth isn't there but is on the right track. 

Edited by H-Town Man
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2 hours ago, arche_757 said:

This is such an odd hill to die on.  What is Fannin?  It isn’t a great street that is for certain, if anything it ought to be reduced from the lanes it has to something more pedestrian friendly.  Putting in a skybridge or not putting one in will not make or break the street.

I can’t say I’d “die on this hill,” but I’ll return some fire to slow the advance and at least try to get some concessions  for the skybridge.  Heck, maybe we could get a replica of the Bridge of Sighs. That might actually go with the aesthetic in the lobby of the medical building.

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On 6/14/2022 at 11:01 AM, H-Town Man said:

Couldn't agree less. You have a bunch of museums, cultural institutions, high incomes in the area, mature trees. It can be done right and we could have a great walkable neighborhood here if we don't settle for the same old crap.

Imagine if when they built Rice University they had said, "Well shucks, we don't have to plan anything, let's just put up a bunch of shiny buildings and by golly, it'll be better than what was here before!"

When Rice was built, there were no shiny buildings. Heck, most buildings in Houston when Rice was built were all wood, other than some of the Downtown buildings.

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34 minutes ago, Ross said:

When Rice was built, there were no shiny buildings. Heck, most buildings in Houston when Rice was built were all wood, other than some of the Downtown buildings.

This almost seems like a parody of taking a post completely literally and totally missing the point. Which is, putting thought and planning into what you build (as in the case of Rice) produces a much better effect than just building a bunch of shiny buildings (most Houston development for the past 75 years or so).

 

Edited by H-Town Man
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@H-Town Man, @houstontexasjack, I can certainly see what both of you are saying.  I don’t think this is such a big deal, but that’s my opinion, and you each are entitled to your own.

I think what should be discussed is codifying development guidelines for the Museum District.  That would be advantageous for all, but we know that’s not likely.  At least not any real toothy codes that would force any future development to plan better for its locale.

@H-Town Man I honestly do not consider the area literally past two blocks north of Binz to be the Museum District.  To me the district is about 2 blocks each side of Binz, and the “L” at Montrose for a couple blocks.  Hopefully this can be expanded through thoughtful development, and some gentle guidance from the City.  That’s my opinion.

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Just too throw my two cents in with the unpopular opinion: I think skybridges and elevated crosswalks are good and that we need more of them.

Houston is not a dense little European city where the streets were laid out at a time when people were still pooping in fields. Houston is a modern American city where the streets were designed to facilitate the automobile. Automobiles will always be the primary mode of transportation.

However, if a city wants to encourage walking (which has many urban-planning benefits), a good way to do that is keep foot traffic somewhat separate from automotive traffic. The Medical Center has many skybridges, and I wish there were more. I think it would be ideal if there were a complete network of them connecting every major institution and every garage. Not only would they increase pedestrian safety, they'd allow people to walk between buildings in air-conditioning. 

As it is, there are still many hospital staff who wander into traffic on Holcombe, Fannin, and Main to cross the road. All three of these major roads are very heavily trafficked, especially around the 7a and 7p shift changes, and they all have very long lights. I worry for the safety of the the many hundreds of hospital workers that jaywalk these busy roads when they are in a rush. Automotive traffic gets very heavy and drivers (especially those from out of town) have their hands full just navigating. It seems that additional elevated walkways and skybridges, especially across busily crossed streets (E.g. between TMC Braeswood Garage and MDA) would help both pedestrian and automotive traffic navigate the space more safely. 

The denser areas of the city, especially the downtown and med center, are dense because the built environment has moved beyond the two-dimensional plane of the earth, and has expanded upward into the third dimension. I think these dense areas need three-dimensional thinking when it comes to handling traffic as well. Otherwise, as buildings grow vertically, congestion on our two-dimensional streets increases exponentially. 

Edited by aachor
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1 hour ago, aachor said:

Just too throw my two cents in with the unpopular opinion: I think skybridges and elevated crosswalks are good and that we need more of them.

Houston is not a dense little European city where the streets were laid out at a time when people were still pooping in fields. Houston is a modern American city where the streets were designed to facilitate the automobile. Automobiles will always be the primary mode of transportation.

However, if a city wants to encourage walking (which has many urban-planning benefits), a good way to do that is keep foot traffic somewhat separate from automotive traffic. The Medical Center has many skybridges, and I wish there were more. I think it would be ideal if there were a complete network of them connecting every major institution and every garage. Not only would they increase pedestrian safety, they'd allow people to walk between buildings in air-conditioning. 

As it is, there are still many hospital staff who wander into traffic on Holcombe, Fannin, and Main to cross the road. All three of these major roads are very heavily trafficked, especially around the 7a and 7p shift changes, and they all have very long lights. I worry for the safety of the the many hundreds of hospital workers that jaywalk these busy roads when they are in a rush. Automotive traffic gets very heavy and drivers (especially those from out of town) have their hands full just navigating. It seems that additional elevated walkways and skybridges, especially across busily crossed streets (E.g. between TMC Braeswood Garage and MDA) would help both pedestrian and automotive traffic navigate the space more safely. 

The denser areas of the city, especially the downtown and med center, are dense because the built environment has moved beyond the two-dimensional plane of the earth, and has expanded upward into the third dimension. I think these dense areas need three-dimensional thinking when it comes to handling traffic as well. Otherwise, as buildings grow vertically, congestion on our two-dimensional streets increases exponentially. 

This is the engineer's mentality that has guided growth in Houston for most of the past century. Anything involving technology is good. Anything new is better than anything old. Older cities don't have anything to teach us. Three dimensions is better than two dimensions. 

Even a smart engineer, instead of these abstract platitudes, would say, "Let's look at what works." The empirical approach. Which cities and neighborhoods do people want to visit? Which ones attract strong demand as shown in rising property values? Does anyone want to visit the medical center who isn't sick or visiting a sick person? Are these "three-dimensional" neighborhoods where pedestrians circulate in multiple planes successful anywhere in the world? Wasn't that kind of a failed 70's experiment, with most examples of it slowly becoming dismantled (see Houston Center) in favor of the two-dimensional paradigm?

13 hours ago, arche_757 said:

@H-Town Man, @houstontexasjack, I can certainly see what both of you are saying.  I don’t think this is such a big deal, but that’s my opinion, and you each are entitled to your own.

I think what should be discussed is codifying development guidelines for the Museum District.  That would be advantageous for all, but we know that’s not likely.  At least not any real toothy codes that would force any future development to plan better for its locale.

@H-Town Man I honestly do not consider the area literally past two blocks north of Binz to be the Museum District.  To me the district is about 2 blocks each side of Binz, and the “L” at Montrose for a couple blocks.  Hopefully this can be expanded through thoughtful development, and some gentle guidance from the City.  That’s my opinion.

Yes, I think the way forward at this point, for anyone having a vision for the Museum District, is to look at the TOD regulations, which encompass the commercial portion of this neighborhood. Probably a topic for another thread. I think I've convinced whoever I was able to convince on this one, probably not many people.

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On 6/15/2022 at 6:18 PM, H-Town Man said:

This almost seems like a parody of taking a post completely literally and totally missing the point. Which is, putting thought and planning into what you build (as in the case of Rice) produces a much better effect than just building a bunch of shiny buildings (most Houston development for the past 75 years or so).

 

Unless a single developer owns a whole neighborhood, this is unfortunately how things get built. Also most “great streets,” whatever that exactly means, are older and are occupied by buildings that have no need to get hundreds of people across a street to an exact destination on a regular basis. 

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22 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

Does anyone want to visit the medical center who isn't sick or visiting a sick person?

Well, there's really nothing there except hospitals. Those hospital food courts are not what most people would consider a "destination."

 

Quote

Are these "three-dimensional" neighborhoods where pedestrians circulate in multiple planes successful anywhere in the world?

Off the top of my head, Las Vegas comes to mind, Downtown Houston (went under instead of over), sections of London, sections of Hong Kong, and sections of Taipei. Many cities in East Asia elevate major thoroughfares and bypasses through dense areas, leaving surface streets for strictly local and pedestrian traffic. It's also fairly common for East Asian cities to have elevated crosswalks at the centers of large blocks or at major intersections. Many major cities around the world elevate their light rail. San Francisco built an entire transit center, park, and pedestrian thoroughfare spanning several blocks above surface street level. Creating multiple levels of circulation is not a novel idea.

 

Quote

This is the engineer's mentality that has guided growth in Houston for most of the past century.

We have a wonderful city. 

Edited by aachor
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22 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

Are these "three-dimensional" neighborhoods where pedestrians circulate in multiple planes successful anywhere in the world?

Also, I'm pretty sure that nearly the entirety of Paris' La Défense district is built with pedestrian traffic elevated above automotive and rail traffic. Though, I've never been there.

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1 hour ago, aachor said:

Also, I'm pretty sure that nearly the entirety of Paris' La Défense district is built with pedestrian traffic elevated above automotive and rail traffic. Though, I've never been there.

No one likes La Defense except viewing it from a distance and the fact that there are not such elevated walkways in the parts of Paris where everyone likes to go proves my point. Note that I said, "successfully." You named a bunch of places that are either not successful (like downtown Houston) or are not the part of the city that is really desirable (London). If San Francisco has one elevated transit center but does not allow elevated walkways elsewhere, that doesn't really tell me that San Francisco thinks these things are a good idea, that just tells me that there must have been some practical reason why the transit center had to be elevated, such as getting buses onto the Bay Bridge.

If you are trying this hard not to see my point, there is no way I am going to convince you. 

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14 hours ago, jmitch94 said:

Unless a single developer owns a whole neighborhood, this is unfortunately how things get built. Also most “great streets,” whatever that exactly means, are older and are occupied by buildings that have no need to get hundreds of people across a street to an exact destination on a regular basis. 

Lots of untruth in this post. There are all kinds of ways for the city to shape how development happens, such as the TOD guidelines that have been mentioned on this thread.

"No need to get hundreds of people across a street to an exact destination"? Most of the cities that have been cited as good models on here have way, way, way more people crossing the street than are crossing Fannin Street right now, and they're doing it without skybridges. There is no reason for skybridges on Fannin. They create an inhuman, BladeRunner-esque, corporate feeling wherever they exist.

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5 minutes ago, H-Town Man said:

Note that I said, "successfully." You named a bunch of places that are either not successful

I guess it depends on how one defines "successful." If you define it as creating an cozy welcoming atmosphere similar to a quaint European town with cute little bistros and cafes and a mime on the corner, then no, these examples are not "successful."

But if you define "successful" as functional for the purpose of allowing pedestrian and automotive traffic to safely traverse the area while providing access to mixed-used development including retail, then the examples I provides are successes (except I can't comment on La Défense). As far as I've experienced, East Asian cities in particular often do vertically separate pedestrian, rail, and automotive traffic along major thoroughfares in their denser urban cores, and they are highly functional, safe, and easy to navigate on foot. 

When it comes to urban development, I think we should stop romanticizing the past and consider what works best given current realities. Houston has a reputation for repeatedly bulldozing its history to allow space for new development. Given that the cost of living is low, and the opportunities for low and middle-class residents are unmatched, I embrace the bulldozer. :D

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3 minutes ago, aachor said:

I guess it depends on how one defines "successful." If you define it as creating an cozy welcoming atmosphere similar to a quaint European town with cute little bistros and cafes and a mime on the corner, then no, these examples are not "successful."

But if you define "successful" as functional for the purpose of allowing pedestrian and automotive traffic to safely traverse the area while providing access to mixed-used development including retail, then the examples I provides are successes (except I can't comment on La Défense). As far as I've experienced, East Asian cities in particular often do vertically separate pedestrian, rail, and automotive traffic along major thoroughfares in their denser urban cores, and they are highly functional, safe, and easy to navigate on foot. 

When it comes to urban development, I think we should stop romanticizing the past and consider what works best given current realities. Houston has a reputation for repeatedly bulldozing its history to allow space for new development. Given that the cost of living is low, and the opportunities for low and middle-class residents are unmatched, I embrace the bulldozer. :D

Quaint European town? I will give as examples London, New York, and Tokyo - the three financial capitals of the world. All have plenty of successful walking areas, all have plenty of regulations on development, and all have, in their most desirable neighborhoods, a minimum of different levels.

If we're citing Houston, I think that proves my point even better. Look at the part of downtown where property values are highest and new development is happening. It's the historic district! Look where the skybridges are - Houston Center, Allen Center, Cullen Center. Do people want to be there? Are new highrises going up there? Aren't the owners of those centers (e.g. Brookfield) trying desperately to make the street more appealing? It's the "quaint" area that hasn't been bulldozed where Hines is building new highrises and relocating their hq so that they can attract talent.

Sorry aachor, even the powers that be in Houston are learning from the past and abandoning the bulldozer. Don't be sad, you had a good run. You'll always have the 70's. 😁

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On 6/16/2022 at 8:29 AM, aachor said:

Just too throw my two cents in with the unpopular opinion: I think skybridges and elevated crosswalks are good and that we need more of them.

Houston is not a dense little European city where the streets were laid out at a time when people were still pooping in fields. Houston is a modern American city where the streets were designed to facilitate the automobile. Automobiles will always be the primary mode of transportation.

However, if a city wants to encourage walking (which has many urban-planning benefits), a good way to do that is keep foot traffic somewhat separate from automotive traffic. The Medical Center has many skybridges, and I wish there were more. I think it would be ideal if there were a complete network of them connecting every major institution and every garage. Not only would they increase pedestrian safety, they'd allow people to walk between buildings in air-conditioning. 

As it is, there are still many hospital staff who wander into traffic on Holcombe, Fannin, and Main to cross the road. All three of these major roads are very heavily trafficked, especially around the 7a and 7p shift changes, and they all have very long lights. I worry for the safety of the the many hundreds of hospital workers that jaywalk these busy roads when they are in a rush. Automotive traffic gets very heavy and drivers (especially those from out of town) have their hands full just navigating. It seems that additional elevated walkways and skybridges, especially across busily crossed streets (E.g. between TMC Braeswood Garage and MDA) would help both pedestrian and automotive traffic navigate the space more safely. 

The denser areas of the city, especially the downtown and med center, are dense because the built environment has moved beyond the two-dimensional plane of the earth, and has expanded upward into the third dimension. I think these dense areas need three-dimensional thinking when it comes to handling traffic as well.

FWIW, a lot of core Houston's streets were laid out when people when people were pooping into buckets and throwing them into cess pools. 

The real problem with skybridges (and tunnels downtown) are that they aren't public and typically aren't accessible unless you are already in a building. They don't do much for people that are just walking through. The skybridge system in Minneapolis at least lets people walk through when the buildings are closed. 

They further promote auto-centric design of the public ROW as well. We don't need to simplify streets for car drivers so that they can drive faster without killing pedestrians when slowing them down slightly has the same effect and a negligible difference in trip time. 

"Three-dimensional thinking" is expensive. When people clamor for subways or elevated trains in Houston, they don't fully appreciate that subways cost about 10X as much and elevated cost about 5X as much as at-grade. So that might be feasible in the med center with the enormous capital investment or downtown with the high-rises and tunnels, but where does that leave lower density commercial districts like Rice Village or Highland Village? There is a reason why the newish River Oaks District was designed like it was. Still a heavy emphasis on auto accessibility (there's parking everywhere plus a central garage) but making the pedestrian experience significantly less painful.

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Otherwise, as buildings grow vertically, congestion on our two-dimensional streets increases exponentially. 

And that is why density X personal cars is never going to work and it doesn't make a lot of sense to make long-term investments exclusively on that basis. I'm not saying turn off the spigot, but we really need to start hedging. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, wilcal said:

The real problem with skybridges (and tunnels downtown) are that they aren't public and typically aren't accessible unless you are already in a building. They don't do much for people that are just walking through.

I don't disagree. I think skybridges are good when there is good reason for foot traffic to run between two non-public buildings (E.g., M.D. Anderson's many connected buildings). But I also think that denser areas should consider more basic elevated crosswalks which are simply connected to public sidewalks via stairs. Again, the Las Vegas strip makes extensive use of elevated crossways, but so do many East Asian cities. Playing Frogger across Holcombe at rush hour is not ideal. And it's not even that the traffic travels particularly fast at that time.

 

6 hours ago, wilcal said:

"Three-dimensional thinking" is expensive. When people clamor for subways or elevated trains in Houston, they don't fully appreciate that subways cost about 10X as much and elevated cost about 5X as much as at-grade. So that might be feasible in the med center with the enormous capital investment or downtown with the high-rises and tunnels, but where does that leave lower density commercial districts like Rice Village or Highland Village?

100%. I don't think that elevated trains, roadways, or walkways are ideal for 99% of Houston. But in denser areas like the Med Center, I think they are a way to make foot traffic safer and more desirable.

 

6 hours ago, wilcal said:

And that is why density X personal cars is never going to work and it doesn't make a lot of sense to make long-term investments exclusively on that basis. I'm not saying turn off the spigot, but we really need to start hedging.

I don't disagree. But I think the way forward here is to encourage high-density mixed-use development. I think there are serious tweaks to how Texas' property tax is structured that could help with this, for example. I'd bet that there are city ordinances and permitting rules that could be optimized.

I don't think that the route that many other American cities have taken of trying to regulate and codify desired outcomes is appropriate for Houston. The end result of that approach is usually less overall development and higher costs for the public. Los Angeles has taken to enforcing "road diets" to try and encourage the use of their awful public transit and, according to my friends, all it's done is make everything more hellish for everyone.

We're a city that is economically friendly to immigrants and the middle-class. I hope we stay that way.

Edited by aachor
grammar error
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On 6/18/2022 at 6:16 PM, houstontexasjack said:

🎶The reflex is a lonely child, who’s waiting by the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark!🎶

I never knew what the second sentence of that was. Thank you.

 

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On 6/18/2022 at 6:16 PM, houstontexasjack said:

🎶The reflex is a lonely child, who’s waiting by the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark!🎶

Completely pointless trivia: Driving a 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit at 55MPH on I-80 westbound in western Pennsylvania, at the top of the last big hill before Ohio, if you throw it into neutral at the start of the song, you will coast across the border into Ohio right at the big crescendo.

This is what we did for entertainment before the internet.

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1 minute ago, editor said:

Completely pointless trivia: Driving a 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit at 55MPH on I-80 westbound in western Pennsylvania, at the top of the last big hill before Ohio, if you throw it into neutral at the start of the song, you will coast across the border into Ohio right at the big crescendo.

This is what we did for entertainment before the internet.

And then the situation deteriorated...

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On 6/18/2022 at 12:22 PM, houstontexasjack said:

Interesting green marble going up on the exterior near street level:

 

This project continues to deliver truly "exceptional" / original design ideas.  I have been involved in a number of projects where we demolished tons of that green marble.

This dude should not be trusted with a 58 story building!!!!

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39 minutes ago, tangledwoods said:

This project continues to deliver truly "exceptional" / original design ideas.  I have been involved in a number of projects where we demolished tons of that green marble.

This dude should not be trusted with a 58 story building!!!!

🤣 probably the cheapest stone they could find..

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3 hours ago, tangledwoods said:

This project continues to deliver truly "exceptional" / original design ideas.  I have been involved in a number of projects where we demolished tons of that green marble.

This dude should not be trusted with a 58 story building!!!!

I agree that it is tacky. In fact, I find the whole building to be gaudy and ugly.

However, Houston has no shortage of sterile glass boxes. I think the city could stand to have a few tasteless, garish, and cheesy buildings.

Over the coming decades, for better or worse, this building will be a landmark. No doubt. 

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2 hours ago, aachor said:

I agree that it is tacky. In fact, I find the whole building to be gaudy and ugly.

However, Houston has no shortage of sterile glass boxes. I think the city could stand to have a few tasteless, garish, and cheesy buildings.

Over the coming decades, for better or worse, this building will be a landmark. No doubt. 

Needs neon accent lighting.

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1 hour ago, hindesky said:

He probably went to the Randall Davis School of Architecture.

Funny enough, I like people with eclectic tastes. I'm also someone with eclectic tastes. There are those people that have eclectic tastes (more than likely because they are heterodox in nature), and then there are those that have...well...their tastes are just...different haha. Lets just go with that.

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On 7/2/2022 at 2:34 PM, hindesky said:

He probably went to the Randall Davis School of Architecture.

Randall Davis doesn't have eclectic taste though...he just has an absence of taste.

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