Better Block and Ellen Cohen dream at My Houston 2040

By | May 11, 2012

Last night about 40 neighbors gathered around tables upstairs at Rudyard’s for My Houston 2040‘s monthly mixer.  Now in its 2nd year, My Houston 2040 is the brainchild and collaboration of Houston Tomorrow, Air Alliance Houston, & Citizens’ Transportation Coalition. They convene monthly to discuss how “Houstonians can build a better Houston today by thinking about the Houston we may inherit in 2040 and the Houston we want in 2040.” [from their facebook event]

Discussing projects like BetterBlock Houston. From the National website, BetterBlock.org, “The ‘Better Block’ project is a demonstration tool that revisions an area to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center.” Better Block is a national movement that originated in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas and also sprouted projects in Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Portland, Memphis and Houston [Holman Better Block Project].

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 12, one of the oldest streets in Houston will be transformed as a part of Better Blocks. The 2000 block of Washington [between Sawyer and Sabine] will morph – make shift astroturf esplanades will replace the turn lane, trees in temporary planters will dot sidewalks, lanes will shrink, vacant store fronts will host popup businesses, abandoned lots will host bike workshops, Houston’s furry friends will enjoy a dog park, live music and food trucks will invade this sometimes forgotten area in disrepair. See the full map and plan here.

Empty storefronts will be transformed as a sort of small business incubator giving local vendors an opportunity to try out their big ideas. Landlords seem open to these ideas, even talking about a longer term relationship with graduated rent for vendors to fill these properties.  Need a bike? For a $15 donation, you can get one tomorrow [in need of a little TLC] and they will have bike experts on hand with parts to help you repair and get your bike moving.

BetterBlocks Houston has worked with local 501c3’s, the reUse warehouse, local property owners, tenants, and the city to make their project come to fruition; they were one of the first recipients of the Love Your Block grant introduced just last month by Mayor Parker.  The Better Blocks Houston – Walkable Washington Project is part of a larger study into Liveable Centers – read more about the planning study here. And stop by after the Art Car Parade for some fun tomorrow. Better yet, stop by before.  The Wave will be offering shuttle rides for $15 beginning at 11am to both the Art Car Parade and Haute Wheels Food Truck Festival.

Ellen Cohen, City Council Representative for District C, spanning Meyerland, Heights and Montrose neighborhoods also attended last night to share her thoughts on what the Houston of 2040 would look like – it includes complete streets, green energy and bike programs like those already being implemented. Cohen also shared a big concern about education , “Focusing on increasing the education of the Houston population must be a priority for Houstonians if we are to continue to be a quintessential city of 2040.”  Among the most conversational of topics in the group were Cohen’s thoughts on the addition of casinos to the Houston landscape and opening the port to cruise ships.

All in attendance agreed that a lot can happen in 30 years; things you cannot anticipate. “30 years ago, I bet a lot of our country would never have thought that we would have an African American President. Period. Let alone a President that supports gay marriage,” shared Cohen. Among Cohen’s thoughts on how Houston might change by 2040, was an repeal on the Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and woman.

What will Montrose look like in 28 years? Share your thoughts on the Houston of 2040 in our comments.

p.s. check out  founder and director of BetterHouston and former Houston City council member, Peter Brown alter walking ego, Pedestrian Pete as he looks for missed opportunities and great examples of walkable urbanism, and then reports back on what he discovers.

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