Sometime over the weekend the row of a dozen-plus street trees lining the west side of Kirby Dr. between W. Main St. and Colquitt got cut down, a Swamplot reader reports. This leaves the eastern front of the Kirby Collection construction site fronted by an alternating pattern of high and low streetlights and stumps. The wooden construction fence that stood for about a year just inside of the sidewalk in front of the mixed-use project is now gone. The photo above shows the view looking south now from the corner of W. Main St.
The removed “highrise” oaks had been installed 9 years ago with the reconstruction of Kirby Dr. — replacing the larger 20-year-old oaks that had been there earlier.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NEW KIRBY TREES “. . . the stretch of Kirby south of Rice Village to Brays Bayou is finished. It now has a center median. The tree planting is identical to the Kirby project from Westheimer to Richmond. Tree plantings on both sides of the road and in the median. The bonus of the Westheimer to Richmond section is that all the power lines will be underground. So the trees will be able to grow freely unlike the ones that were removed!” [kjb434, commenting on West Ave School of Loud but Muffled Knocks]
At last — maybe now we’ll actually be able to see the store signs on Kirby between Richmond and Westheimer:
TIRZ President Buddy Bailey said the new high-rise oaks, which can reach a height of 40 feet, “grow straight up and straight down,” which will reduce problems with root systems and underground infrastructure.
The plan calls for the exiting 135 trees to be replaced with 148 trees.
“We will match the old trees caliper for caliper,” he said.
A real estate agent writes in to report that the grand compromise to save all those Live Oaks lining Kirby Dr. between Richmond and Westheimer isn’t going to save anything:
Despite a compromise that reclaimed 7 feet of paved width from a plan to revamp Kirby Drive, it now appears that all of the trees between Richmond Avenue and Westheimer Road will be lost to construction.
Houston foresters told a group of about 30 residents Thursday that after walking the site Dec. 7, it was determined that even with a roadway that is 73 feet across, the majority of trees will be unable to survive.
City Forester Victor Cordova said only eight trees within the area have a “realistic chance” of surviving, and that is because they are relatively small rather than in a viable location. He called moving those trees “a very expensive venture.”
Our agent-informant is aghast, and tells us that either the trees stay or she leaves Houston. That sounds kinda drastic, and doesn’t give much credit to the real improvements to Houston’s quality of life the Kirby Dr. reconstruction will likely achieve:
The City insists that the street be widened not to increase capacity but to increase the lane widths. A Public Works engineer told me recently that drivers of Hummers and some large SUVs find the current Kirby lane width “uncomfortable.”
The wisdom of King Solomon lives on! The promised grand compromise on the Kirby Dr. street trees has been officially unveiled: Many of the oaks lining the busy street will get to keep most of their roots! The street surface will be expanded
to a standard of 73 feet, widening to 74 feet for left-turn lanes without signals and 77 feet at intersections with stoplights. Kirby is currently 66 feet wide.
That means up to five-and-a-half feet of trimming.
In order to protect trees during construction, a process called “water sawing” will be used to trim roots away from the construction area.
It won’t hurt a bit!
The oaks along Kirby Dr. between Richmond and Westheimer have spoken, and they appear to be against being removed so that traffic lanes can be widened by twenty inches.
Since FEMA is providing funding to install massive 72-inch culverts under Kirby from 59 to San Felipe anyway, folks at the Upper Kirby TIRZ figured, why not go all the way and make the street safer for buses and fat-ass trucks? And while we’re at it, why not pave those intersections with giant stars? Sure, that might mean less space for trees and sidewalks, but we’ll be able to squeeze some new ones in.
None of this is making Trees for Houston, the organization that planted many of those trees umpteen years ago, very happy. But maybe they’re just not being appreciative enough of the new 14-foot-wide median they’ll be able to drop their tiny saplings into. Got it? On Kirby everything gets rebuilt.