Preparing for Growth, Property Owners Agree to Extend The Energy Corridor District’s Mission06/16/2015
Management district has overseen millions of dollars worth of infrastructure improvements since 2001
HOUSTON, June 12, 2015 – Property owners in Houston’s second largest employment center aren’t waiting around for projections to come true that have more offices, employees and residents heading for The Energy Corridor in the coming decade.
Instead, property owners in The Energy Corridor District have agreed a year ahead of schedule to extend the improvement district’s mission by 10 years. The District – created, in part, to facilitate and enhance the Katy Freeway widening project in 2001 – covers more than 2,000 acres in West Houston along IH-10 and Eldridge Parkway, the core of The Energy Corridor, home to some of the globe’s most influential energy companies, plus several hundred national and local companies.
The District’s mission, says Clark Martinson, the District’s General Manager, is to boost the community’s quality of life and sense of place by implementing transportation mobility, public safety, beautification, streetscape, trails and pedestrian/bicyclist initiatives, while encouraging business development.
“More people, buildings and traffic are on their way as we transform from a conventional suburban area to a more densely developed urban place, says Martinson. “We are planning for a vigorous future.”
The Energy Corridor will remain a key driver of Houston’s economy for years ahead, according to a CDS Market Research study that predicts office and mixed-use space here to double to 45 million square feet by 2030.
And by 2030, employment is expected to grow 64 percent to 149,000 employees, says CDS. Already, The Energy Corridor is the second largest employment center in Houston.
The District’s Board of Directors adopted the 10-year services plan during its monthly meeting June 12. Property owner petitions supporting The District’s 2015-2024 Services, Improvements and Assessments Plan were accepted during a public hearing May 22 at The Energy Corridor District’s offices. State law requires property owners representing a majority of a district’s real estate sign petitions to continue an improvement district’s services.
The new service plan is estimated to generate approximately $50 million in assessment revenue. Assessments are based on Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) appraised property values.
To deal with projected growth, the service plan dedicates 45 percent of its budget to transportation projects; 25 percent to ongoing maintenance, plus enhancing and beautifying the urban realm; and 11 percent to security and public safety efforts such as The District police patrols – an increase over the current service plan budget.
Leveraging millions into multi-millions
Since The District’s creation by the Texas Legislature in 2001, it has taken a planning leadership role in West Houston, working closely with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), METRO, Harris County, Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), the federal government and the City of Houston to get transportation and other projects implemented.
“Through strong regional leadership and proactive representation with local, state and national agencies we can create significant value for property owners, employees and residents,” Martinson says.
Martinson points to a list of completed public works projects worth nearly $43 million that The District facilitated by leveraging $2.6 million of assessment revenue into funding from a variety of sources, such as government grants.
“By extending our mission now, The District’s property owners will help us continue providing the local match needed to leverage public works infrastructure projects over the next decade,” explains Martinson. “Substantial transportation projects require a long-term commitment and strong partnerships with government entities.”
Transportation mobility a centerpiece
Two core mobility projects are proposed in the new service plan. One, The Energy Corridor Circulator, is designed to provide high-frequency rush-hour service along Park Row, N. Dairy Ashford, Memorial Drive, SH 6 and portions of Eldridge Parkway.
The other is an express commuter transit service from areas southwest, west and northwest of The District where many Energy Corridor employees live.
“Our greatest need in the next decade will be transportation mobility and access,” says Martinson. “One strategy to deal with traffic is to provide dependable and convenient transit from home to work and within The Energy Corridor.”
The District also plans to open additional CarShare locations with Enterprise, in addition to existing locations, to overcome the primary objection commuters have to using METRO, carpools and vanpools, or bicycling and walking: having a vehicle at work for whatever need arises.
Creating “safe, enjoyable” places
A new master plan for The District recently proposed ambitious concepts designed to improve livability and how people get around The Energy Corridor. If funded and implemented, the ideas would transform The Energy Corridor’s parks, street grid, and Addicks Park and Ride, while enhancing the unique Grisby Square dining area.
Ideas generated by the six-month master plan process can serve as a polestar for what The Energy Corridor could become, says Martinson, a place with sought-after parks, a transit facility that goes beyond buses and redesigned street grids to facilitate mobility as well as pedestrian and bicyclist travel.
“Creating safe, enjoyable places to walk and bicycle is important,” explains Martinson. “Whether driving, taking a bus, walking or riding a bicycle, our roadways, sidewalks and trail system must be in excellent condition and designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists, as well as motorists.”
Martinson sees the next 10-year service plan as a significant evolution of The District’s role in West Houston.
“The first service plan,” he says, “prepared the way for the reconstruction of IH-10. The second service plan saw the opening of the new highway, HOV lanes and The District’s role in constructing and maintaining accompanying landscape, architectural and pedestrian/bicycling enhancements.”
The next 10 years, says Martinson, will be an important time for The District and its stakeholders.
“Projected regional growth will demand thoughtful planning and the ability to implement projects with tangible results,” concludes Martinson, “if we are to keep The Energy Corridor a premier place to work, live and invest.
About The Energy Corridor District
Created in 2001 by the Texas Legislature, The Energy Corridor District (Harris County Improvement District #4) works to enhance the community’s quality of life and sense of place by implementing mobility, public safety, and streetscape and business development initiatives. The Energy Corridor District consists of over 2,000 acres that extend along both sides of Interstate 10 from Kirkwood to west of Barker Cypress and along Eldridge Parkway from north of IH-10 to south of Briar Forest.