Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reassuring Answers to a Bothersome Question

I was lucky enough to attend the Citizens Environmental Coalition’s “Green Neighborhoods for Green Buildings” symposium last week.

The moderator was a fellow architect and Super Neighborhood President – David Robinson, President of the Neartown / Montrose Super Neighborhood. The speakers were Houston Tomorrow President David Crossley; Jeff Taebel with the Houston-Galveston Area Council (and the author of Livable Centers), and Brian Crimmins, Senior Planner with the City of Houston’s Planning Department.

The Houston-Galveston metropolitan area is set to gain 3.5 million people in the next 25 years, and that means a lot of things. Average Houstonians are right to be concerned about what’s coming. They should ask questions ike: will my neighborhood be demolished to make way for dense development? Will that new development push flooding onto my street? What about other urban problems – noise, traffic, crime….? What if it goes the other way, and my neighborhood is passed-over for new development?

In the Q&A portion of the symposium, I asked: “As Houston grows, do we risk turning our back on post-war neighborhoods?”

The answer was a reassuring ‘no’. First, according to Jeff Taebel, they want to make all of Houston livable; not just the neighborhoods where it’s easy. It may be more difficult to bring the dense, walkable urban core model to a post-war neighborhood; but they’re going to try.

The second answer came from Houston Tomorrow President David Crossley. Basically it’s that neighborhoods know best what type of development should go where. If neighborhood groups are proactive and vocal, we should be able to direct development to where we want it.

I’ve always been skeptical of Houston’s urbanists, because I'm afraid that the parts of Houston that fit the New Urbanist vision will get all the attention; while large swaths of the City will be neglected. The “Green Neighborhoods for Green Buildings” symposium helped a lot with my skepticism. I'm very interested to see how things pan out.

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