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Houston, A Region Of Urban Villages


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The "Urban Village" as defined by many is a high density, zoned environment with all the characteristics of a village containing residential, commercial, entertainment, educational and religious establishments, all in close proximity, with efficient mass transit "nodes" connecting with other urban village centers within a region. This nodal network (IMHO)may work best in a non-zoned city that embraces mass transit.

Houston, for example, has shunned zoning unlike many other cities in the United States. Yet, the free market has created our Central Business District downtown, The Heights, Uptown/Galleria, Greenway Plaza, (more recently) Midtown, the North Main district, Reliant Park, the Museum District, Medical Center, etc. Yes, some of these destinations lack certain elements of an Urban Village; however, mass transit in a city the size of Houston may change this fact. No zoning and the light rail line, along with consistent, timely bus routes servicing the light rail line stations (mass transit nodes)could create an organic effect, a more human, free market, Urban Village.

Houston is currently a city of pseudo-urban villages connected by a sea of concrete. Houston may be poised to get out of the car, take some time and smell the flowers. Imagine the Medical Center, Uptown/Galleria, The Museum District, etc. all as Urban Villages connected by a 15-30 minute train ride. Central Houston would explode (again IMHO). A network of transportation nodes connecting our existing centers of activity will transform each location into a unique Urban Village. As people return to the city "centers" the nodal system would likely spread out to the suburbs and possibly the exurbs.

The futurist (errr, dreamer) in me supposes that a day could come where certain concrete arteries become so unused and unnecessary that they are dismantled and forgotten. Could it be that the unzoned Urban Village, coupled with investment in mass transit nodes between city/regional centers, is the answer?

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