Putting a LID on Urban, Mixed-Use Development
SPRING WOODS VILLAGE MASTERPLAN & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Location: Harris County, TX
Client: Coventry Development Corporation
Completion: Scheduled for 2015
Size: 1,500 acres
Budget: Phase One, $97.7 million
Services: Master Planning, Civil, Traffic & Transportation Engineering
By any measure, Spring Woods Village is an ambitious undertaking. There are numerous stakeholders, public and private, vast acreage with several distinct ecosystems, high-growth urban corridors on two sides, a big, important neighbor sharing a boundary on a third side, and it is one of the first Low Impact Development (LID) concepts planned for the area.
Walter P Moore was contacted by Coventry Development in 2008 to help find the right site for a master planned, mixed-use development within Houston’s rapidly expanding urban orbit. We found it just north of the city, adjacent to Interstate 45 (I-45). Undeveloped and under single ownership for decades, the site had all the ingredients for a nature-focused, family-oriented community: forests, springs, creeks, upland prairies, and savannah wetlands. Its inhabitants: birds, insects, and small animals.
At a detailed level, we are designing the infrastructure. At a macro level, we’re helping create a sustainable community, including writing the guidelines that will maintain their sustainable ideals throughout future development.
Phase One Infrastructure
Following our delivery of a conceptual plan, Coventry engaged us to provide master planning and engineering for the Phase One infrastructure. Our mandate: low-impact, sustainable design with the goal of obtaining LEED® Gold certification. Major components of the infrastructure include storm water detention, drainage, roadways, bridges, traffic signals, lighting, electricity, and telecommunications.
Walter P Moore is also helping coordinate the roles of the various stakeholders — Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Harris County, the Grand Parkway Association — and the adjacent development, ExxonMobil’s 300-acre corporate campus. This will be Harris County’s first venture into low-impact development on this scale.
As currently designed through 2025, Spring Woods Village encompasses three residential neighborhoods, two corporate campuses, a hotel, a hospital, an interpretative nature center, and a town center. Open green space is planned for both active and passive recreational use and located according to the 100-year flood plain. The development will draw upon numerous sustainable techniques, from bio-swales, rain gardens, and solar shade structures to small wind farms, forested buffers, and man-made wetlands complexes.
The Traffic Challenge
Development in Houston must contend with traffic and the city’s constant influx of new residents. One of the foremost challenges of Spring Woods Village is its traffic planning and engineering. I-45 North forms its eastern boundary and limits accessibility. Between Houston and The Woodlands, I-45 is one of the busiest highways in Texas with an average vehicle count of 300,000 per day. And this is before ExxonMobil’s considerable workforce is figured in. Furthermore, Grand Parkway, Houston’s third and outer-most loop, is under construction immediately to the south and provides some access problems of its own.
Our traffic engineers employed a dynamic simulation traffic model to identify the necessary traffic control devices, lane configurations, and intersections. A second model incorporating vehicles, pedestrians, and public transit gave us usage projections based upon completion phases, permitting us to properly locate transit centers within the development. Videos of the simulation model have been helpful to stakeholders in making roadway design decisions, including adjusting the partially completed Grand Parkway.
From simulation modeling to stakeholder dialogue and committed stewardship in the engineering of critical infrastructure, our role in Spring Woods Village is drawing on all of our skills.