Houston's Walkable Places
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
For the past several decades, Houston’s Code of Ordinances has promoted development dominated by codes that mitigate traffic with building setbacks and off-street parking requirements. This made sense for a long time, as Houston is an auto-centric city with its vast geography and growing population. As we build more parking lots to accommodate drivers, it has taken away buildable area and limited property use.
How do we turn the corner to make Houston’s urban areas more accessible? By creating mixed-use, public transit-friendly neighborhoods that can accommodate housing, restaurants, services, schools, cultural facilities, parks, and more within proximity. This connectivity increases foot traffic and reduces the need for private vehicles, thus creating sustainable, livable urban communities
The City of Houston recognized this need, creating the called Walkable Places Committee who spent three years to develop ways to encourage high density, mixed-use development along pedestrian-friendly corridors. The Houston City Council adopted the Committee’s recommendations in Summer 2020. The Walkable Places Committee proposed two regulatory tools to create vibrant destinations and attract higher density developments that support multi-modal transportation in Houston. They are the Walkable Places Program and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Standards.
Here at Sandlot Engineering, we are passionate about sustainable design and development. The Walkable Places Program establishes a process to create pedestrian-friendly development along designated street segments within the city, making these areas become destinations. These urban destinations may include restaurants, shops, art venues, and residential uses. They are places that Houstonians can move through, while leaving automobiles elsewhere. Walkable Places support communities, property owners, and developers by providing options that create interesting and enjoyable, walkable destinations.
The program gives property owners more flexibility in their development, encouraging more pedestrian and business activities in closer proximity, leading to greater economic vitality in the city. The committee has selected three pilot areas to test and prove the concept:
Emancipation Avenue in Third Ward
Hogan Street in Near Northside
Would you like to learn more about Houston’s Walkable Places Program, and how it can positively impact development? Contact one of Sandlot’s knowledgeable civil engineers.
*photos and maps courtesy of City of Houston Planning & Development