Esplanade Improvement Project FAQ

By | May 17, 2017

What is the esplanade improvement project?

The esplanade improvement project will aesthetically enhance District esplanades to reinforce the appeal and identity of the larger Montrose community and improve public safety. Materials for each esplanade have been selected for their high quality and low maintenance requirements. Some trees are proposed for replacement (see below) with 200-gallon native Live Oaks. Once they mature, they will create a canopy, and their shade will provide enjoyment for generations to come. Below the tree canopy, a mix of hardscape and vegetation is planned, with an opportunity to include lighting and art where appropriate. Each esplanade will be fully irrigated to allow vegetation to mature and survive. The enhanced esplanades will be maintained by the Montrose Management District.

The esplanade improvement project is part of a larger enhancement effort that includes gateway monument markers at key intersections and the updated bridge lighting along the US 59 overpasses. Five esplanades were marked for improvement beginning in 2016, including the four already completed along Lovett Boulevard and the additional esplanade along Yoakum Street.

Why will some trees be removed?

The esplanade improvement project intends to build esplanades that offer the large scale tree canopy beloved in many areas of Houston. Creating such a canopy requires specific tree species (most notably the Live Oak) and appropriate spacing to be fully effective. Trees were chosen for removal based on diligent research and guidance from City of Houston and horticulture experts to ensure the longevity of the landscaping.

A number of trees currently in place along the medians would hinder the project or worse, destroy it. For example, some esplanades are currently inhabited by the Chinese Tallow tree, an invasive species with a short life span that inhibits and destroys other plant life, and is considered a “prohibited species” in Texas. You can learn more about the Chinese Tallow tree and its impact in Texas here.

What will happen next?

The committee thoroughly reviewed the traffic patterns at three Montrose Boulevard intersections ( W. Gray, Clay and W. Dallas), and determined that several improvements should be considered:

Traffic volume at the intersections of W. Gray, Clay and W. Dallas suggest that left turn movements could use some additional capacity to ameliorate turning traffic congestion on Montrose.
The committee is considering closing the median openings north and south of Clay and opening a southbound left turn lane there, as well as lengthening left turn bays at W. Gray and W. Dallas.

Median openings between W. Gray and W. Dallas along Montrose Blvd. should be addressed.
Median openings have positive and negative implications. Gaps in the median allow for turning movements and access to businesses along the corridor between signalized intersections, but they also introduce conflict points and can potentially subject the corridor to higher accident risk.
Closing a median opening shifts some turning movements downstream but also reduces the number of conflict points along a corridor, thereby reducing the crash potential.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: One important goal is to create a median that will be consistent with long term plans, while also improving aesthetics and safety.

Montrose Blvd has wide, signature medians with many older trees.
Sidewalks are in disrepair and are not wide enough.
Sidewalk enhancement does not fully improve the pedestrian experience.
A wider, newer sidewalk that is closer to vehicular travel lanes doesn’t necessarily lead to more pedestrians feeling comfortable walking on the sidewalk.

Transitioning to and from the improved area is challenging.
When travel lanes are shifted, flow into the broader street network must be a consideration.

What if we could shift some of the median width to the sidewalk area to improve the pedestrian experience?
This would require full street reconstruction to move storm inlets and underground utilities, which is very costly. Also, if you are considering full street reconstruction, care is taken to upsize the utilities for the long-term growth, which also adds to the cost of the project.

Full street reconstruction for Montrose Blvd will be handled as a City of Houston Capital Improvements Project and/or as a Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) project.

How can I stay updated on the project?

We encourage everyone to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and check our website for current news and events. Additionally, the public is welcome at all board meetings, and invited to join our several working committees. A schedule of all meetings can be found here.

District provided services such as safety patrols by off-duty HPD officers, graffiti abatement, trash pick-up, maintenance of esplanades, among other services outlined in the Districts’ Assessment Plan, that are supplemental to services provided by the City of Houston, had been reduced in Mid-November and ceased completely as of December 11. The District had to cease the services due to unpaid assessments from some of the commercial property owners within the District. Please direct questions regarding the cessation of services to Executive Director, Ben Brewer at BBrewer@MontroseDistrict.org. We are committed to helping our neighborhood remain the safe, vibrant and attractive place to live and do business and would like to hear from you on how we can continue to work together in this effort.