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Alexan Heights

Alexan Heights gets approved

The Leader News updates us on the latest news regarding the proposed development on Yale at 7th.

Alexan Heights on Yale

Houston’s Planning Commission has approved Trammell Crow Residential’s replat application without variance for the site of its 360-unit Alexan Heights mid-rise luxury apartment at Yale and 6th streets, West Heights Coalition’s website reports.

The replat for the 3.5-acre site included properties previously restricted to single family use but recently revised with deed restrictions amendments.

The deed restrictions involved single-family home initially within the block-filling complex’s proposed footprint — properties that the owners did not want to sell and that TCR was able to design around. TCR’s earlier request for construction with a variance failed before the Houston Planning Commission.

A half-dozen or so area residents spoke against the replat request at the May 23 hearing — and others had written and called relevant offices and attended numerous planning commission meetings, WHC sources said.

See here and here for the background, and here for the WHC’s statement. I think people are going to have to come to terms with projects like this and Elan Heights and whatever the next foofily-named high-end apartment project that will replace some existing piece of old Heights development is. People want to live in the Heights, but the houses are scarce and ridiculously expensive. A high-end condo or apartment isn’t a bad alternative for a lot of folks, given that reality. For all of the gentrification that has occurred in the last decade or so, there’s still a lot of low-end properties and vacant lots dotting the map. Trammell Crow, to their credit, is offering to address some of the items on the neighborhood wish list, in particular a pedestrian-activated crossing signal where the bike path traverses Yale, as part of their offer to the city for this space. I think overall we’re going to be better off engaging developers on that sort of thing rather than going full metal Ashby Highrise and hoping for a different outcome. I’m just saying.

Alexan Heights trying again

The Leader News reports that the proposed mid-rise apartment complex for Yale at 7th Street has been reworked in a way that would avoid the need for a variance.

Alexan Heights on Yale

The deed restrictions involved single-family homes within the proposed complex — properties that the owners did not want to sell and that TCR was able to design around. TCR’s earlier request for construction with a variance failed before the Houston Planning Commission.

An advance copy of the new notice was part of a TCR/Maple Multi-Family Land TX letter to District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen dated April 19, portions of which read: “The replat includes properties that were previously restricted to single family. The deed restrictions for these properties have been amended to allow multi-family so the replat will include all 3.55 acres of the site as an unrestricted reserve.”

The letter to Cohen also says TCR has restricted the project’s driveway on Allston Street to be a service exit, left turn only, to divert traffic away from the neighborhood. And, the developer “is willing to work” with Allston Street neighbors if they seek parking restrictions or “No Parking” signs adjacent to the apartment project.

In addition, the letter to Cohen says that if the city will approve a HAWK signal — a crossing signal controlled by pedestrians or bicyclists — at the bike trail adjacent to the mid-rise’s site, TCR will fund and build it. Similarly, the company “is prepared to make a contribution” to the detention pond/park at Rutland and 6th streets.

See here for the last update, and see here for a copy of the letter sent to CM Cohen’s office, which they shared with me. “TCR” is Trammel Crow Residential. I had thought they’d get the variance that they were ultimately denied, so I’m not going to speculate what may happen here. The neighborhood is still opposed to the idea, or at least the more vocal factions of the neighborhood is opposed. I know there’s a lot of interest in putting some kind of signal at the bike trail crosswalk, so you’d think there might be room for negotiation here. Be that as it may, there is a public hearing scheduled for 2:30 p.m. May 23 at City Hall Annex, 900 Bagby St to discuss this, so we’ll see what happens this time. Swamplot has more.

Alexan Heights update

The developers of the Alexan Heights project on Yale will go before the Planning Commission tomorrow to get a variance that would remove a single-family restriction on part of the property. Some folks in the neighborhood have been petitioning against the variance. The Leader reports from a meeting that was supposed to be between residents and the developer, except that the developer didn’t show.

Plans submitted by Terra Associates, affiliated with several luxury Alexan apartments throughout the Houston area, show a 350-plus unit complex with 4 stories of apartment units over two levels of parking, one of which is below grade. Currently a mixed-use block in the Maple Heights subdivision, the 3.5-acre site fronts Yale between 6th and 7th, with Allston Street its interior border and the Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail to its north.

Last week, Houston Planning Commission deferred its decision on whether to grant a variance request to replat as unrestricted reserved a single-family portion of the site. Since it has twice-deferred the variance request, however, the planning commission must make a decision at its next meeting, with or without the traffic study reportedly being conducted by the developer and expected in mid-February.

Whether passed or denied, however, a version of the project is likely to advance in some form, said Bill Pellerin, land use committee chairman, who also said neither the committee nor the association has taken a position on the proposed project.

Residents, however, were outspoken on the project’s potential impact on traffic in an already-bottlenecked stretch of roadway, on access and flow, on setbacks, on sidewalks, on drainage and on the overall presence of a mid-rise building abutting an otherwise single-family neighborhood.

“The variance is the project,” one attendee said, calling for residents to give the planning commission “reasons to deny it” and to remind commissioners as well as council members that seeking a variance means something is not in compliance. “Stick to the rules,” said another resident.

The West Heights Coalition is leading the resistance, with assistance from RUDH. I have sympathy for the WHC, but I have a hard time seeing how the Planning Commission denies the variance. There’s a similar high-end apartment complex about a mile north, at 2125 Yale, and between 6th and I-10 Yale is basically all industrial. Yale is a thoroughfare in the way that Bissonnet where the Ashby Highrise will be isn’t. It’s true that the traffic is awful right there, but as far as I can tell that’s because of the traffic light that went in after the I-10 service road was extended west of Yale. You could probably mitigate some of this traffic by building a dedicated right-turn lane for the service road, which is something I know was talked about as mitigation for the Wal-Mart construction. Anyone know whatever happened with that? Tweaking the timing on that light to give a longer green and a shorter red for Yale would also help some. I certainly agree that between this, the Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart-related development, and whatever is to come on the San Jacinto Stone site, Yale is going to become an unholy mess to drive on. But given all that, it’s hard to see how this one project will make that much difference.

Yale Street Bridge work set to begin

Good to hear.

Work to rehabilitate the Yale Street Bridge south of Interstate 10 is scheduled to begin in April.

According to the Houston Department of Public Works and Engineering, the process will involve installation of external carbon-strip reinforcement along the bridge beams, significantly increasing the load-bearing weight of the structure, which now is set at 3,000 pounds per axle. Bids are expected to be received in February, with contracts awarded in March and rehab work beginning in April.

The bridge is on a Texas Department of Transportation prioritized list for statewide funding for replacement, with construction anticipated to start in late 2016.

The bridge’s capacity was downgraded by TxDOT from 8,000 pounds per axle last September.

Until the work is completed, monthly inspections of the bridge are slated to continue. Most cars, SUVs and light trucks do not exceed the restrictions, but some do. You can check the weight limit of your vehicle on the sticker attached on the driver’s side door.

The Houston Police Department continues enforcement efforts, as anyone who drives that regularly can attest. Also, the city is remotely monitoring bridge traffic to identify possible overweight vehicle violations. Perhaps the biggest reduction of traffic to the bridge is that with the completion of Koehler between Heights Boulevard and Yale, there is now an easy alternative route via the Heights Boulevard Bridge for northbound and southbound truck traffic. The Heights Boulevard Bridge does not have load limits. For more about the bridge and the rehab project, contact Alvin Wright at 832-395-2455 or alvin.wright@houstontx.gov.

See here, here, and here for some background. With the Alexan Heights project on the drawing board there’s even more reason to get this going. Hopefully this will make the situation a little better until full-on reconstruction can begin.

Alexan Heights on Yale

If you live in my neck of the woods you’re probably interested in the news (via Swamplot) of the new apartment complex being planned for the empty lot on Yale between 6th and 7th. The RUDH January newsletter has details.

Trammel Crow Residential is planning its first project in the Heights, at the corner of Yale and 6th Streets. At their request, Council Member Cohen invited RUDH to discuss our questions and possible concerns. We prepared a three-page document outlining concerns that ranged from potential traffic impacts, streetscape greening and sidewalk connectivity, safe signalized crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed connections to existing bike trails and park spaces and a desire to ensure the appropriate architectural style to fit the fabric of our neighborhood. RUDH also coordinated with the landscape architectural firm that proposed designs to facilitate converting the new drainage detention pond into community park space (south of the hike and bike path and next to Rutland). At the moment, there are currently no plans in place to make the new drainage detention pond into useable green space.

The good news from the meeting is that Trammel Crow is interested in working with RUDH and community leaders to transform this drainage detention pond into a public green space amenity. The developer also communicated their interest in investing in the surrounding streetscapes and infrastructure in a manner that promotes mobility and creates safe connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Trammel Crow Residential has committed to share their traffic and drainage studies with RUDH when they become available and stated they would perform mitigations as required by the City. We are hopeful this positive collaboration will lead to a sustainable development and mitigate any newly created problems.

The bit about turning the detention pond into usable green space is interesting and encouraging; see this Swamplot post for more on the pond, which has been under construction for awhile. I don’t know why it is that 6th Street doesn’t go through to Shepherd, but given that it doesn’t a well-landscaped community park is an excellent use of the space. I hope RUDH and the neighborhood folks can help make it happen.