The American Planning Association (APA) Houston Chapter announced the city’s best planning projects, advocates, and communities for the year. The Awards Selection Committee evaluated nominees based on originality and innovation, engagement, implementation and effectiveness, quality, and promotion of planning and determined that several of our projects were worthy of their Silver designation.
The East Aldine Livable Centers Study demonstrated originality and innovation by focusing a broad array of topical recommendations around the immediate, everyday needs of East Aldine’s residents and business owners and their vision for the future of East Aldine. A comprehensive and inclusive engagement process, conducted bilingually in Spanish and English in a variety of content formats and existing communications webs, built awareness, understanding, and support from the community, including the involvement of people who had not previously participated in planning processes.
A series of implementation-focused meetings with project partners, in addition to a detailed and living Project Tracker document, strengthened the path towards implementation of the recommendations. From the scale of individual well-being to regional connectivity, the recommendations in this study lay a foundation for the residents of East Aldine to continue to uplift their community into the future.
Jury Comment: “The East Aldine Livable Centers Study excelled in its public engagement and capacity-building—no minor feat in a community that has experienced historic disinvestment and marginalization.”
Parks and Green Space have the potential to reduce levels of stress, increase social cohesion, and encourage physical activity thereby improve people’s health. Green space, particularly tree canopies, can reduce air and noise pollution, and protect residents from extreme heat events.
Incorporating recreation into the Inwood Detention Basin would potentially benefit 3,400 homes (homes within a 10-minute walk of the park) on an ongoing basis. This equates to a population of approximately 10,000 residents.
With multiple agencies, both public and private, involved in the conversation regarding flooding in the neighborhood, larger tenets have emerged through the Inwood Detention Recreation Study. Connectivity and equity for residents and visitors as well as wildlife habitat and aesthetics have become drivers for many of the stakeholders. Through analysis of regional studies, research of current area project and a robust public engagement strategy this Integrated Planning and Programming Recreation Study seeks to create a new vision of equity driven, ecology based, flood basin design.
Jury Comment: “The Inwood Detention Recreation Study is an exemplary project re-imagining conventional flood infrastructure by community-driven design focusing on improving equity, ecology, and recreation.”
The Montrose Livable Centers Plan provides a robust set of strategies for investment in infrastructure, housing, economic development, parks, and the arts within TIRZ 27 in order to continue Montrose’s trajectory as one of Houston’s best places to live, work, and play. The plan takes a holistic look at all components of what makes a neighborhood and its residents more resilient, including mobility, thoughtful use of public spaces, access to affordable housing, re-development in sensitive neighborhood and cultural contexts, an improved public realm, and the treatment of public art as critical neighborhood infrastructure.
The plan also identifies how underutilized street space can be reallocated to create more “people” space including play street, and green street designs. The project took place entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic and the consultant team worked hard to ensure the community’s safety while still maintaining a dynamic engagement approach, utilizing a number of virtual engagement methods throughout the study. The map-based online neighborhood tour provided an opportunity for community members to interact with key locations on a map, telling the story of place – each stop included visuals, written explanation, and survey questions.
Also, as Montrose is known as the city’s gayborhood, a panel of national LGBTQ+ planning experts convened to explain how challenges in other gayborhoods around the country could translate to lessons learned for Montrose. The plan’s attention to the arts, culture, and LGBTQ+ history of the neighborhood, as well as many recommendations focused on small business support and supporting the growth of public art infrastructure and programming in the neighborhood, ensure the “vibe” that so many love about Montrose will be around for years to come.
Jury Comment: “The Montrose Livable Centers Study is a noteworthy effort exalting the neighborhood’s arts, culture, and LGBTQ+ history into human-scale urban design strategies and creative placemaking – supported with robust public engagement during the pandemic.”