“La Branch Street is the answer. Make a linear ‘shopping district’ 5th Avenue style. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel — copy what already works. Instead of a cluster inspired district that will encourage development of a few blocks, the entire street will become synonymous with shopping in Downtown Houston. The street’s location has many benefits to creating a thriving retail shopping district: connectivity from the Northside all the way down to Hermann Park, ample empty parking lot blocks immediately adjacent ripe for development from the ground up, walking distance from all four of eastern Downtown’s major attractions (Minute Maid, Toyota Center, Discovery Green, and GRB), future MetroRail stops nearby (though an added stop between Austin and LaBranch would benefit such a district tremendously), and relative ease of location finding for drivers. A linear shopping district downtown would further accelerate residential development in all of eastern downtown, be it north, central, or south. No resident living on the eastern side of Downtown would have to cross more than three streets to get to La Branch. A cluster shopping district would only encourage development in its immediate vicinity; only so many residents could live within that three block range. The greatest advantage of a linear district is location finding — there’s no need to study maps and such to find where the Downtown retail is — just go park near La Branch Street and you’re there. Who really knows how to get to Houston Pavilions anyhow? No kitschy names that are created by focus groups — the La Branch Shopping District. Put up some new place identifier street name signs to be sure. Flags on light poles too. How many more out of town tourists/fans/convention attendees will be more likely to go shopping if directions will consist of ‘Walk thata way ’til you reach La Branch–You’re there.’? Create a TIRZ for the linear district to incentivize the retail pioneers until the tipping point is reached at which retail and residential will create growth off of each other. Perhaps make the focus of the TIRZ building mixed-use parking garages to replace parking lots — create such a vast, easily accessible, free quantity of parking that the current perceived barrier to venturing downtown is eliminated.” [Thomas, commenting on Downtown Would Like To Know If You Would Like To Shop Downtown]
About SwamplotSwamplot covers real estate, home design and renovation, architecture, and the landscape of Houston, Texas. Swamplot did not flood during Allison — or Ike! Honest!
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