Asakura Robinson Completes Westchase Livable Centers Study

April 11, 2018   /   Project News

The Westchase District’s brand reflects the area’s diverse base of job opportunities, retail, and residential living. With 94,000 jobs, a mix of housing options, major retail corridors, and access to two of the region’s major highways, the area is poised for further growth.Yet with growth comes new challenges and opportunities. Employers in the District are conveniently located to attract talent from across the Houston region, but increased commuting in single-occupancy vehicles creates traffic and mobility pressures. The District’s residential stock has remained well-maintained, but competitive business districts are working to attract more mixed-use development to attract young employees, and homeownership opportunities to attract families. The Westchase District’s Long-Range Plan, completed in 2006, recognized the need for the District to evolve its mobility strategies and development mix in order to continue its successful trajectory.

To address these challenges and opportunities, the Westchase District partnered with the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) to conduct a Livable Centers Study on the portion of the Westchase District between Rogerdale Road and Gessner Road. As defined, the study area focuses on the area east of the Sam Houston Tollway or “Beltway,” as well as opportunities to better connect this area across the Beltway to the District’s western side. Livable Centers Studies are sponsored by H-GAC with local partners to create places where people can live, work, and play with less reliance on their cars. According to H-GAC, “Livable Centers, with concentrations of residential and employment, support more trips by foot, bicycle, transit, or carpool.” Livable Centers studies also advance the six HUD livability principles, including:  

  • Provide more transportation choices  
  • Promote equitable, affordable housing
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Support existing communities
  • Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment
  • Value communities and neighborhoods

KEY QUESTIONS

As the prime consultant for the Westchase District Livable Centers Study, Asakura Robinson worked with a Core Team of client representatives and a Steering Committee of stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve livability, walkability, and economic activity in the study area. The key questions identified with stakeholders were:

  1. What are highly tactical and tangible strategies for public-sector action that can bring the private-sector to the table in developing mixed-use, walkable places?
  2. How do we combine big, impactful ideas with smaller, incremental projects in order to improve quality of life and reduce traffic congestion in the study area?
  3. Where can we add housing options and amenities that would encourage local employees to live in the District, while also retaining and improving quality of life for the diverse group of residents already living in the study area?

 

ACTION PLANNING
The five concepts and individual recommendations in the Westchase District Livable Centers Study work to answer the study’s central questions by combining major projects with smaller, incremental program or policy changes; focusing on how public-sector action can motivate the private sector to act; encouraging alternative modes of travel including walking, biking, and transit; and encouraging new housing options in areas that currently lack housing development, while avoiding any recommendations that would displace existing residents. Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Establishing a walkable promenade that forms a second frontage for retail and mixed-use development along the Westheimer corridor
  • Working with property owners to establish signature walkable paths, “The Lanes at Westchase,” that cut through superblocks and encourage walkability
  • Encouraging transit-oriented development and supporting transit improvements such as the planned Bus Rapid Transit route on Westheimer
  • Expanding homeownership availability for existing and new residents
  • Building on the existing multi-functional green infrastructure network

 

View project sheet here.

Download full study from H-GAC website here.

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