Reinvigorated: The Concrete Jungle Turned Urban Oasis
BAGBY STREET RECONSTRUCTION
Location: Houston, TX
Client: Midtown Redevelopment Authority
Size: 3,500 linear feet
Budget: $9.6 million
Services: Civil, Traffic, Transportation, Water Resources Engineering
Certification: LEED Silver, Greenroads® Silver
Firsts: 1st Greenroads® Project in Texas, 8th in the world, highest-scoring at time of certification
- Best Street of the Year, 2014, Congress for New Urbanism (Nat’l)
- Engineering Excellence Honor Award, 2014, American Council of Engineering Companies (Nat’l)
- 2014 Presidential Award of Excellence, Design/Implementation, American Society of Landscape Architects,TX
- Merit Award for Communication, 2014, American Society of Landscape Architects, Texas
- Engineering Excellence Gold Awards, 2014, American Council of Engineering Companies, Texas
A 2008 drainage study prompted the Midtown Redevelopment Authority to redesign the aging infrastructure along 10 city blocks of Bagby Street in Houston’s Midtown. Midtown had become increasingly popular with Millennials wanting to live near the CBD. Here was an opportunity not only to alleviate flooding in the area, but also to speed its gentrification with a neighborhood of young professionals.
And there was more. Beyond the basics of new storm sewers, water and wastewater lines, paving, traffic signals, sidewalks, and landscaping, here was an opportunity to pilot a sustainable inner-city community, to have an impact on urban redevelopment thinking. They brought Walter P Moore in to provide infrastructure engineering and guide the project.
Keep the Traffic Flowing
One of the challenges was accommodating traffic flow through the area. Bagby is a one-way collector that connects downtown to the Museum District and the Southwest Freeway (U.S. 59), one of the most heavily travelled freeways in Texas. Traffic had to keep moving while improvements were made to this developing business, residential, and pedestrian environment. In other words, no street closings.
As the prime consultant Walter P Moore conducted a block-by-block traffic study. We then designed detailed traffic control and construction phasing plans. The plans were reviewed with stakeholders and modified as construction progressed to minimize impacts. Bagby remained open even during installation of the 28-foot-deep, 60-inch storm sewer beneath it.
Our traffic study confirmed that traffic counts didn’t warrant Bagby’s existing four lanes. Two (and possibly three by 2030) were sufficient. Teaming up with the urban planning and design firm Design Workshop, we put together a Low Impact Development (LID) plan. It would be a first of its kind in the city.
A LID for an Urban Setting
Using LID in the public domain of an urban setting was a breakthrough for Houston. The plan converted Bagby Street into a two-lane roadway with parallel parking on either side (for conversion later if needed). The parking lanes are buffered by landscaping and hardscapes at intersections and intermittent “rain gardens” unique to the area. The rain gardens capture a third of all storm water, filtering and removing oil and grease, total suspended solids, bacteria, and phosphorus before it enters the newly installed storm sewers.
While there was initial concern by some regarding reducing Bagby down to two lanes, thorough and consistent communication with the numerous government entities, local businesses, and residents ultimately helped win their support. And what this support produced was a great deal more than underground utility improvements.
This stretch of Bagby can now point to a mixed-use neighborhood on the fringes of Houston’s CBD that:
- is environmentally, economically, and aesthetically sustainable;
- has a distinct sense of place and community;
- is walkable, bikeable, accessible, and safe; and
- is a model for implementing LID principles within a busy urban context.
To illustrate the overall success of the Bagby Street Redevelopment, as of late 2013 the area has attracted more than $25 million in new private development.