Environmental Constraints

Floodplain

Due to environmental constraints, it is recommended that future development attempt to incorporate low-impact development techniques particularly to help mitigate storm water run-off. Storm water treatment swales, rain gardens, green roofs and other techniques can be incorporated in public infrastructure improvements, future site improvements and buildings.

The streams in the Study Area are White Oak Bayou and its tributaries, Vogel Creek and Cole Creek. The current Flood Insurance Rate Map by the Federal Emergency Management Agency shows that more than half of the Study Area is in the 100-year floodplain of these streams. Many buildings are located in the floodplain and are therefore subject to periodic flooding.

The Harris County Flood Control District has acted to reduce flooding in the Study Area. Vogel Creek has been channelized to increase its capacity and carry flood waters downstream more quickly. In addition, the District has purchased and demolished homes close to White Oak Bayou.

Flooding is and will remain a major problem in the Study Area. The Near Northwest Livable Centers Study focuses redevelopment opportunities outside of the floodway. The study recommends that vacant sites within the 100-year floodplain be reserved for recreation and conservation use, such as parks, gardens and greenbelts.

Existing Green Space

existing greenspace

The Livable Centers Study Area has a collection of green spaces made up of both parks and wooded areas. The bayous in the Study Area made up of White Oak Bayou and Vogel Creek and are the true under-utilized green spaces in the area. These green spaces are in many cases hidden from view of those traveling through the area. Just north of the Study Area is the community’s most well-known green space/open space being the former Inwood Forest Golf Course. Currently, the only public park in the area is the small Aron Ledet Park on and west of Antoine Drive about one-half mile north of Tidwell.

 

Existing & Proposed Pedestrian & Bike Trails

pedestrian and bike trails

New bicycle paths will soon provide a safe and attractive alternative to riding on the street, and other paths are also proposed. The pedestrian and bike trails network within the Livable Centers Study Area is currently being improved today with new trails being constructed along White Oak Bayou connecting to existing trails along White Oak that go to Memorial Park as well as other great parks and green spaces in the city. The trails under construction as well as the future trails planned along the bayou are key in creating a true cohesive network of pedestrian and bike trails in the region.

The City of Houston is now building the first bicycle path in the Study Area, a separate route along White Oak Bayou from south of the Study Area to Victory Drive. Antoine Drive is currently in the process of being restriped to include bike lanes from Pinemont north to White Oak bridge. There are two proposed bicycle paths crossing the Study Area. One proposed bicycle trail would be built along Cole Creek, crossing the Study Area from east to west. Another would cross the Study Area from West Little York Road on the east to White Oak Bayou on the west. Bicyclists are poorly served in the project area with no bicycle paths and few through streets that are not crowded with motor vehicles.

Regional Mobility

regional mobility

The daily traffic volume at Antoine Drive reaches 32,000 vehicles per day. West Little York Road west of the Burlington Northern Railroad has traffic volume between 19,000 to 25,000 vehicles per day. Victory Drive and West Little York Road east of Burlington Northern Railroad have daily traffic volumes less than 18,000 vehicles. Traffic volume on West Tidwell Road increases gradually from east to west, from 16,000 to 36,000 vehicles per day. In general, northbound and southbound streets are more congested than eastbound and westbound streets.

The Near Northwest Study Area lacks a sufficient network of streets to connect with the major arterial roads. The area’s stream and railroad corridors (White Oak Bayou, Vogel Creek, Burlington Northern Railroad) create barriers that restrict movement from one side to the other. Potential future local street connections are shown in red dashed lines in the accompanying graphic.

The Study Area has parking at major shopping centers, employers (for employees and customers only), and on minor streets in residential subdivisions. Major arterials such as Antoine Drive do not allow on-street parking. Consequently, businesses must have their own parking lots for patrons, making for an automobile-dominated community where pedestrians are not encouraged.

Pedestrian use of the study area is hindered by lack of safe sidewalks. Where sidewalks exist along major streets in the study area, most are in poor condition. As a result, pedestrians must walk on unpaved shoulders or on the street. Also, subdivision street patterns have few links to other areas and it is difficult for people to walk or ride bicycles from subdivisions to schools, commercial areas or transit stops without traveling along a major arterial roadway, sometimes three to five times farther than a direct connection would allow.

Read more on Regional Mobility

regional mobility 2

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) operates three bus routes in the Study Area:

  • Route 85: North-South on Antoine Drive
  • Route 45: East-West on West Tidwell Road
  • Route 79: East-West on Victory Drive and West Little York Road

Routes 85 and 79 connect the Study Area with downtown Houston, while Route 45 is a crosstown line that serves north Houston and does not go downtown. The map at left shows the locations of bus stops and bus shelters in the Study Area. METRO has built bus shelters at the stops with larger numbers of daily boardings.

METRO has determined that average weekday transit ridership in the Study Area is about 3,600 riders per day. H-GAC has provided average daily vehicle trip estimates from their regional travel demand model, aggregated to a set of ten Traffic Analysis Zones (TAZs). After calculation, it is estimated that the total number of person-trips per day to and from the Study Area by personal motor vehicle is at least 68,700 person-trips per day. Thus, about five percent (5%) of travelers coming to or from the Study Area use public transportation, and about 95 percent of travelers use private automobiles. There is no information about the number of bicycle or pedestrian trips in the Study Area.

regional mobility 3

The average number of riders entering and exiting METRO buses at Study Area bus stops on average day is shown in the adjoining figure. This indicates that Route 85 on Antoine Drive has many more boardings than Routes 45 and 79, wit daily boardings of over 500 passengers per day.

Impediments to transit use in the Study Area include long walks from residential areas to bus stops, the difficulty of walking or riding a bicycle along arterial streets and bus stops without shelters or seats. Most bus stops have no shelter and no seats for people waiting for the bus.

Single-family residential developments in the Study Area have been designed in the auto-dominated manner popular since the 1950s. There are generally one or two streets connecting the residential area with a major thoroughfare instead of each street connecting directly to a thoroughfare and a bus stop at most corners. Consequently, the use of public transportation requires walking along a convoluted street pattern to reach the bus stop at the major thoroughfare, a substantial obstacle to transit use. Apartment residents are more likely to have a short walk to a bus stop.

The area has few bicycle paths and few sidewalks in good condition for people to use to get to transit stops. Many sidewalks in the Study Area are dilapidated, overly narrow or non-existent. The paved area is narrow, in some places less than three feet wide. Pedestrians must walk on the roadway in some places, jeopardizing their safety. Connections through parking lots from the sidewalk are often missing. Frequent curb cuts create conflicts between pedestrians and automobiles.

Population Growth

Population in the Study Area is expected to experience moderate to rapid growth, which will result in increased traffic volumes in the Study Area. The projected annual growth rate of population from 2011 to 2035, as forecast by H-GAC, shows that the southern part of the Study Area is predicted to have a higher population growth rate than the northern part. Population is expected to grow rapidly in the area bordered by Cole Creek, West Tidwell Road and Burlington Northern Railroad, exceeding 3.5% through 2035. The area bordered by Burlington Northern Railroad, West Little York Road, West Tidwell Road and White Oak Bayou is expected to grow at a slower pace, between 1% and 2.5% annually through 2035. Population in the remainder of the Study Area is expected to remain stable or decrease, with growth rates less than 1% per year.

Demographic, Economic & Market Trends

Land Use

land use

The Livable Centers Study Area is primarily a series of single family residential neighborhoods with a few concentrations of multi-family developments. Along Antoine, and concentrated at the major intersections of Tidwell, West Little York, and Victory is retail and commercial development considered to be of average to poor quality. Industrial land-use, serviced by the Burlington Northern railroad line occupies the western edge of the Study Area. Significant green space/open space is provided by flood control initiatives along White Oak Bayou and Vogel Creek as well as the presence of the abandoned Inwood Forest Country Club.

Land use is changing in some parts of the Study Area. Homes close to White Oak Bayou were bought out and demolished by the Harris County Flood Control District for flood control, and the City of Houston has condemned and demolished the apartments on De Soto Street for redevelopment.

Market Conditions

An assessment of existing demographic profiles, market conditions and historical trends was conducted for the Study Area. The Study Area saw its most significant period of past growth from the 1970s through the 1990s. The population has a higher percentage of households with children under 18 (55.6%) than the City of Houston overall (50%). There is a relatively high share of the population without education past high school. African Americans represent approximately 50% of the Study Area’s population which is more than twice the average for Houston.

Read more on Market Conditions

Retail Trade and Services are the top two job classifications currently in the Study Area making up roughly 55% of the jobs. The largest portion of retail positions are in Building and Garden Supplies, while the majority of service oriented positions are in the Educational Service field. Income distribution is more heavily weighted toward lower ranges than the distribution for the City overall with the estimated 2010 median income at $39,290 versus $44,923 citywide.

market conditions

The Study Area has more multi-family units (56.3%) and more renter-occupied units (56.7%) than citywide multi-family units (44.1%) and renter-occupied units (52.3%). A comparison of home values reveals that on a median basis the Study Area is rather evenly matched with the City of Houston overall. However, compared to Houston the Study Area has nearly twice the share of housing units within the $100-149,000 range and nearly double the share built within 1970-1979. This lack of diversity means a large portion of the housing stock is simultaneously aging and is potentially an indicator of a stagnant housing market.

The existing multi-family occupancy is low, partly the result of intentional application of more strict tenant selection policies at some complexes. Historical multi-family absorption in the Study Area has fluctuated significantly with an obvious downward trend over time and rental rates that are relatively low and stagnate in comparison to the City overall. Most properties were built in the 1970’s and 1980’s and while some have been renovated, many are likely to deteriorate unless the market improves enough to justify capital expenditure for upgrades.

Similar to multi-family, the majority of commercial space was built in multi-tenant retail centers in the 1970’s and 1980’s and have an average overall occupancy of 82.7%; however, rates of 85-90% would indicate a healthy market. The retail market is functioning moderately well from an occupancy and absorption standpoint, but at a depressed level in terms of rent and quality of tenants. Rent levels have fallen at grocery anchored centers suggesting that retailers are less concerned with proximity to brand anchors as they are with affordable space. Some older properties that have not been updated suffer from very high vacancy. Another factor affecting the retail market is the presence of competitive, more strongly anchored retail properties along US 290.

The current income base in the Study Area is a challenge when trying to attract national credit tenants for retail and to justify upgrades to multi-family properties. The physical condition of both commercial and multi-family properties along the Antoine corridor acts as a deterrent for more risk-averse tenants.


 

The "Big Ideas"

At the inception of the planning process at meetings with The Advisory Committee members and stakeholders, a series of “big ideas” and the associated opportunities and challenges for each was identified. These big ideas became the major themes guiding the focus of this project and serve as the story-line for what a Livable Center can achieve in the Antoine Corridor.

Redefine our relationship to water

water challenges

Challenge: Historically, water has been an enemy attacking this area with flooding, requiring extensive repair and rebuilding.

water opportunities

Opportunity: Raise the awareness of water with public spaces and trails that trace it, landmark buildings that leverage investments overlooking it and bridges that celebrate crossing it.

Make parks and gardens a priority

parks challenges

Challenge: This is one of the most under-served areas of Houston in terms of park space.

parks opportunities

Opportunity: Transform the area with a series of diverse parks linked in a green network, animated and accented by water.

 

Create a place that is a destination

destination challenge

Challenge: People have limited reasons to come to this area today.

destination opportunity

Opportunity: Create a live, work, learn, visit and play lifestyle and sense of place that will be unique in Houston.

Transforming an auto-centric strip into a street for People

auto centric challenge

Challenge: Tame traffic and transform the character of a strip dominated by vehicles, pavement and parking.

street for people opportunity

Opportunity: Transform the street edge with active public spaces and commerce that makes it safer to walk and a place of identity and civic pride.

 

Leverage strategic location with upgraded transit connections

transit challenge

Challenge: A location with proximity to the airport, Galleria, downtown and other employment areas, but with limited and lengthy connectivity.

transit opportunity

Opportunity: Establish express service signature bus lines allowing residents to live, walk and ride transit to jobs while reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian activity on Antoine.