Mayor Parker announces plan to restore Memorial Park, ease Galleria-area's traffic congestion

April 11, 2013 6:51:36 PM PDT
It's an ambitous plan to restore Memorial Park and ease traffic congestion in the Galleria area. But it won't come cheap, and it will require taxpayer approval.

The drought of last summer decimated Memorial Park.

"I find it kind of depressing because it doesn't look the same at all," jogger Helen Hemingway said.

And traffic on Post Oak Boulevard, near the Galleria, is only getting more congested. A proposal to add rapid transit bus lanes within the median is still unapproved.

Now Mayor Annise Parker is hoping a new plan will help restore normalcy to both areas.

"It's not unusual, but it is very unusual," Parker said.

And it's not cheap. Together, both projects total $556 million over a 25-year period. So the mayor needs more tax dollars and plans to get it by expanding the boundries of the Uptown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. It calls for annexing 1,768 acres of land. However, only 36 are currently taxable property.

Mayor Parker says it would put capital intensive dollars where they are needed for the benifit of the public.

"This is really allowing us to put public spaces within the orbit of the TIRZ and allows us to put some intensive capital dollars where they are needed for the benfit of the public," Parker said.

The dual project would implement a masterplan to retore greenery, remove invasive species and stop erosion. The Uptown Galleria area would recieve rapid mass transit lanes within the median of Post Oak Boulevard, while still maintaining the current six lanes of vehicle traffic.

"We have been underserved for years. Transit service is something that we have to have for our longterm economic health," Uptown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone President John Breeding said.

It's longterm health for both Uptown and Memorial Park.

"Memorial Park is so central to Houston," Alice Gutermuth said. "I think it's kind of improtant that we get it back to the way it was."

A public hearing on the plan is set before the city council on April 24, and a vote could come as early the end of the month.

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