Community Engagement Meeting Sheds Light on Improvements in Montrose
Dozens of people filled the Multi-Service Center on West Gray last Wednesday to get a sneak peek at the future of Montrose. Organized by the Montrose District, the community engagement meeting provided the public with information about a number of neighborhood improvement projects currently in the works, including a special parking area, new monuments and markers, bridge lighting, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and extra security patrols. Montrose District board members and staff were on hand to answer questions, as were representatives of the contractors involved in the effort.
The ultimate goal of the projects, said Montrose District Executive Director David Hawes, is to spur economic development in Montrose by making the neighborhood an even better place to live, work, and shop. “What makes for economic development is a sense of place, security, walkability, and a pleasing environment,” Hawes said during a break from talking with attendees at the meeting. “Everything we’re hearing about tonight goes to that. It’s been proven time and time again that you’re not going to have economic development where people don’t feel safe, where they can’t walk, where they can’t park, and where they don’t like the environment.”
One of the biggest challenges facing the neighborhood is parking. To address the issue, the Montrose District is preparing an application to the city to create a special parking district which would have the ability to add both off-street parking and better utilize existing street side parking. “We have a ‘first do no harm’ policy,” said Director of Special Projects Tony Allender. “We don’t want to create any additional problems in residential neighborhoods; we actually want to decrease the problems.”
The first step, Allender said, is to reduce the number of cars on Montrose streets. To that end the District plans to encourage alternative transportation by constructing new sidewalks and bike lanes along several neighborhood thoroughfares, including Waugh Drive and Commonwealth Street. “If we’re asking people to walk farther, then that walk has to be a convenient and enjoyable experience,” Allender explained. “So we’ve got to fix broken sidewalks, improve crosswalks, and bring in more landscaping. Walking should itself be part of the Montrose experience—that maybe along the way you stop at three or four small shops.”
To better identify and market the district, 28 Art Deco-style signs reading “Montrose District” will be installed at 20 intersections throughout the neighborhood at all major access points. Designed by the acclaimed landscape architecture firm Kudela & Weinheimer, the signs will begin to go up in the first quarter of 2016, pending the approval of the Montrose District board. “The idea is to pull the whole district together visually and give it an identity,” said Kudela & Weinheimer project architect Austin Taphorn. “The major gateways into the district will tell you, ‘You’re in Montrose.’” Kudela & Weinheimer have also designed new landscaped esplanades that should be completed by July or August.
One of the most popular exhibits at the meeting was a large rendering of the long-awaited new lighting installations for the district’s six bridges over Highway 59. Created by Houston’s own Gandy Squared Lighting Design, the lights will allow the bridges to be lit up in a variety of color schemes. Troy Allender, for one, can’t wait for the new lights to be installed. “It’s going to be fantastic to see the bridges lit again,” he said. “But in an even better way.”