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HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARCHIVES
Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Thu 04/17/2008
Section: ThisWeek
Page: 3
Edition: 3 STAR

MUSEUM DISTRICT/MONTROSE / Group unveils plan for boulevard / 2.7-mile walkway will run from Buffalo Bayou to Mecom Fountain

By BETTY L. MARTIN
Staff

The Montrose Boulevard Conservancy's two-year plan to create a high-quality, landscaped and well-lighted pedestrian pathway with park-like amenities along one of Houston's main streets got a green light from area residents on April 10.

The plan - "Walkable Montrose: A Master Plan for Re-Establishing Houston's Grand Boulevard" - was received with mostly positive reviews from about 160 residents and city officials who filled the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral's S.P. Martel Auditorium, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., to standing-room-only capacity.

The community-based plan by the nonprofit proposes to restore Montrose Boulevard, built in 1911, to its original status as a grand avenue or pedestrian "promenade," group president Claude Wynn said.

Wynn and John Walsh, Montrose Boulevard Conservancy board member and real estate businessman, presented the plan. It calls for a 2.7-mile pedestrian walkway from Buffalo Bayou at Allen Parkway to Hermann Park's Mecom Fountain.

It would connect to hike-and-bike trails in Buffalo Bayou Park, Hermann Park, Rice University and the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Red Line Rice/Hermann Park Station.

Noting the vigorous support represented at the meeting, City Council members Wanda Adams, Peter Brown, Yolanda Jones and Sue Lovell expressed support for the project.

Funding sources

Wynn said it will be paid for by donations and possibly with city Capital Improvement Project funds requested through area civic organizations.

"This is a reflection of what the community has expressed that it wants ... as well as reflecting the stature of what (Montrose Boulevard) was as a grand promenade," Walsh said.

Some components of the plan, such as the brown signs that direct visitors to the Museum District and specific points of interest, will be part of the city's responsibility.

Other areas, such as individual sections of the boulevard, are to be paid for by businesses that volunteer to spruce up and maintain those sections.

Walsh said the first phase of the project will cost $4.7 million, which includes a three-year reserve for maintenance after work is completed.

"We will call upon property owners for maintenance," Walsh said.

It will save about 50 percent in costs to construct all of the sidewalks, curbs, lighting and other work at one time, he said, rather than space out the construction and costs from business owners over a 20-year period.

"This is really stupendous for Montrose," said resident David Crossley, who predicted the project would result in "an explosion of business along Montrose, because it won't be a speedway - it will be a great boulevard."

Julie Young, who writes the East Montrose Civic Association's newsletter, questioned whether the project includes enough biking amenities for the area's many cycling residents, "or are we going to be shunted off to adjacent streets?"

Considering cyclists

Walsh said bicyclists wouldn't be forgotten and that the Houston-Galveston Area Council created a bikeway plan in 2005 that would provide funds for projects such as the one planned for Montrose.

Tom Cisnaros of Cisnaros Design Studios, 4621 Montrose Blvd., encouraged planners to use the talents of local artists for park benches, canopies and other surfaces.

Charles Norris, a representative of Tradition Bank, a project sponsor with an office located at the former Plaza Hotel building at 5020 Montrose Blvd., said the bank has donated about $8,000.

He described the project as a boon to a "real jewel" of a community.

"It's just tremendous what you have here," he said. "Please preserve it."

...

AT A GLANCE

The Montrose Boulevard Conservancy's "Walkable Montrose: A Master Plan for Re-Establishing Houston's Grand Boulevard" calls for a 2.7-mile pedestrian walkway from Buffalo Bayou at Allen Parkway to Hermann Park's Mecom Fountain. It would connect to hike-and-bike trails in Buffalo Bayou Park, Hermann Park, Rice University and the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Red Line Rice/Hermann Park Station.

For more information, visit the Montrose Boulevard Conservancy's offices at 4200 Montrose, Suite 550, or the Web site at www.montroseblvd.org.

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