Planning for the Future of Washington Ave

Local planning firm Asakura Robinson has released a 250-page study on the past, present, and future — as they would like to see it — of the Washington Corridor. The study seems to stem from Better Block Houston, a kind of experiment the firm performed in a vacant lot near their mural-stained offices on Washington and Silver: The street was transformed into a pop-up plaza: Food trucks rolled in, bike repair stations set up, and local retailers spread out. The study imagines this kind of pedestrian life happening along the entire length of Washington, from Westcott to I-45 and between I-10 and Buffalo Bayou.


Still, the study doesn’t suggest that all the street needs are a few kooky performers and food trucks. Attention is paid to the nuts and bolts of infrastructure as well: The firm calls for the creation of a Washington Corridor management entity, which could begin to oversee the management of storm water, maintenance of affordable housing, development of local businesses, and enhancement of public transportation, through rebuilt streets, dedicated bike lanes, and the introduction of high-frequency buses and a dedicated trolley-like circulator.

If you have a few hours, you can page through the study here. Or you can watch this compressed version:

Images: Asakura Robinson

18 Comment

  • Sometime in the late 90’s a whole block of historic buildings at Washington and Heights Blvd, facing the Heights State Bank, was torn down in order to be replaced by a landscaped fence and part of a parking lot for the Archstone apartment complex there. You can see them in the movie Paris, Texas. Now, wouldn’t those buildings have great redevelopment potential today! Just another example of the shortsighted nature of “highest and best use” arguments for razing historic buildings.

  • What is the plausibility of turning Washington Ave into a one-way, eastbound road with three lanes with one lane dedicated to on street parking. And then having Center St become the outbound counterpart – three lanes, no parking, so that less additional right of way would be needed.

  • @Mike: people pleaded with Archstone to do mixed use and revitalize that stretch of Washington Ave. Archstone gave everyone the finger. Before the market crash, there was a plan to do a huge mixed use development in place of the Archstone apartements with retail focused on the Washington/Studemont corner. Now, it looks like they are just going to do residential only pencil box apartments in four quadrants, the first currently under construction. So, that stretch of Washington will not see anything in the distant future that will contribute to a pedestrian streetscape.

  • It’s very easy to criticize shortsightedness in hindsight. Not so easy when you’re actually at that point in time.

  • Washington will become the Richmond Strip of today, sure it was popular for a few years but people get bored and find a new “cool” place.

  • it’s also easy to criticize when you have no responsibility to make money from the investment.

  • Until Houstonians vote for city council members and mayors who possess even a modicum of intelligence about urban planning, give a damn about the city’s future beyond their term-limited six year, and have the guts to enact laws and regulations that force developers to do these things, it won’t happen. The irony is that these very same developers build amazing urban projects regularly in other cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago – because those cities require it. Houstonians are left to go visit other cities when they want to experience great urban spaces and places.

  • Washington Corridor is too long a name for this area. Lets call it Wa-Do.

  • this area was a dump in the 90’s — preservation was not on people’s minds. it would be like going into the 5th Ward or Gulfton today and demanding buildings (like the hotel that just burned down) be preserved.

  • Well, if we’re going to shorten Washington Corridor the same way we shorten East of Downtown to EaDo, wouldn’t it be WaCo? #seewhatididthere

  • It’s easy to defend developers no matter what they do. Just insert some verbiage about how hard it is to make money, the pressures involved in building apartments, how Houston is so full of these pesky historic buildings that a poor bastard could go broke trying to find land not encumbered by them, etc…

  • WaWaDiDi
    (Washington Walkable Dining District)

  • htownproud, Washington Ave. in the late 90’s really wasn’t like 5th ward or Gulfton today, and hundred year old brick storefronts really aren’t like that hotel that burned down.

    Dallas protected all of its little neighborhood brick commercial districts along similar avenues like Greenville and Jefferson, and now they are real estate gold.

  • While Asakura Robinson definitely helped spearhead Better Block, the event was not their own. And the first Better Block event took place on Holman Street in front of the Community Arts Collective back in 2011.

  • Vmel, that’s what I say all the time! It would make so much more sense to have Washington and Center to be one-ways, from a traffic and development standpoint. Hard to pull off, sure—Center gets pretty narrow in places and is barely enough for two lanes now, but the end result would be amazing.

  • I drive in that area and I have thought about it. The problem is that as Center Street gets closer to Sawyer, it becomes more industrial, with trucks using it as idling areas and backing up to their docks. There is also parts of Center St. that are really skinny and have homes/buildings right up to the edge.

    When/if something is to be done in the Washington Ave. area, it will have to include Center St.

    Building off of your comment though, in an ideal world, Center St. would be 2 one way streets with Washington Ave. being 2 one way in the other direction. You can then take the extra two Washington Ave lanes and make a very nice walking/biking area that will encourage more pedestrian activity. Adding more parking to Wash. Ave should be done in lots and structures.

  • What would be awesome would be finding a way reroute the Union Pacific line elsewhere. Turn that ROW into a pedestrian, bike, and park strip with light rail running down it.

    Having the industrial rail traffic running through our neighborhoods will always inhibit the area’s full potential, while converting it to a LR/bike/pedestrian strip would increase the walk-/bike-ability of the neighborhood and the availability of mass transit without disrupting development along Washington Ave. while opening up a whole new unique avenue for new properties to face.

    On an unrelated note, redeveloping the Waugh/Memorial interchange is a horrible idea which seems irrelevant in the context of this project. Cloverleafs may be out of fashion among civil engineers, but that interchange is iconic and loved by many.