New streetscape and redevelopment guidelines for Broadway are far from being approved, despite pressure to get the plan passed before a construction moratorium along the island’s gateway thoroughfare ended this month, committee members said Wednesday.
Consultants developing the plan met Wednesday in a heated session with the Broadway Ad Hoc Committee, a group that was supposed to vote to approve the plan before sending it off to the city council.
Consultants with the urban design firm Design Workshop encountered wide disagreement on many aspects of the plan. Committee members called for a deeper look and more time, perhaps months, to adjust the proposed guidelines.
“We’re going to call a time out,” committee Chairwoman Betty Massey said. “We’re at it. We obviously have a long way to go.”
The city has worked for decades on series of plans to beautify Broadway, and the latest effort is one to tweak the most recent beautification plan, which passed in 2015. The plan set uniform standards for businesses and homes along the street. Most of requirements set physical limitations, including not allowing buildings to exceed three stories.
The council wasn’t entirely satisfied with the plan and formed the Broadway Ad Hoc Committee in 2016 to change the parts it didn’t like. The committee in January suggested hiring an independent consultant and call for a moratorium on most construction while the consultant formed a streetscape and redevelopment plan.
The moratorium, approved in May, was controversial among current and prospective Broadway business owners, who claimed the city was prohibiting development. The moratorium lasted six months and is now over, Planning & Development Director Tim Tietjens said.
Councilwoman Terrilyn Tarlton-Shannon, of District 5, said six more months were needed to develop a plan. Tarlton-Shannon serves on the committee and owns a business on Broadway.
“We’ve got business owners we’ve got to give answers to,” Tarlton-Shannon said. “You can’t pass the guidelines as they are right now. We still need to work on it.”
Design Workshop’s proposed plan created five different “character zones” along Broadway, each with different design guidelines.
Along Broadway, taller buildings would be allowed closest to the causeway and allowed heights would decrease moving east, according to the proposal.
Height was a major point of contention at the Broadway Ad Hoc Committee meeting, during which several members objected that there was no demand for higher buildings on the main street.
“It’s not realistic to who we are or where we’re going,” committee member Chula Sanchez said. “We’re not midtown Houston, we’re Galveston. We never will be because we’re a barrier island. Get a grip.”
Under Design Workshop’s recommendations, the first character zone, from the causeway to 59th Street, would remain an urban center, and the second zone, from 59th to 43rd Streets, would encourage mixed-use developments. The area from 43rd to 27th Streets would be labeled as a “neighborhood town center,” and the zone from 27th to 10th Streets would remain a special historical preservation district. The fifth zone, from 10th Street to Seawall Boulevard, would be a “gateway development core,” according to a Design Workshop presentation.
Design Workshop recommended a “road diet,” meaning it would narrow street lanes along Broadway to slow traffic. The group also recommended bike lanes along Broadway and left turn lanes.
Many of the curbs would also have larger required setbacks in order to create more space for cafe and retail walking fronts, according to the presentation.
Parking was also a major sore spot for committee members. Design Workshop suggested mostly rear and on-street parking along Broadway, with only the areas from the causeway to 43rd Street being able to use front-lot parking.
Galveston architect David Watson pointed out that street parking and rear parking isn’t accessible for people with physical disabilities.
“I think we need some parking in the front but supplement it with parking in the back,” Watson said.
TROLLEY NOT ON TRACK
One of the biggest suggestions at the meeting was the creation of a walking trail along the Broadway median by 2022. Design Workshop suggested replacing it with a trolley track by 2030.
The walking trail would be put in place by extending the medians farther out into intersections to allow more space for people to stand while they’re waiting to cross the street, consultant Tarana Hafiz said.
The walking trail received little feedback at the Broadway Ad Hoc Committee meeting, but the trolley track suggestion received a resounding ‘no.’
The median isn’t wide enough for a trolley, and it could potentially increase flooding because placing tracks would decrease the permeability of the median, Watson said.
“It’s not going to happen, so just take it out,” Watson said.
The city also needs to determine how the buses that are designed to look like trolleys and newly renovated trolleys perform with riders, Assistant City Manager Rick Beverlin said.
“It shouldn’t even be discussed until the land use proves there’s demand,” Beverlin said.
The meeting Wednesday left some wondering what Design Workshop set out to accomplish in the first place.
Design Workshop’s presentation focused too much on landscaping and transportation, instead of building design guidelines, Watson said.
The request for proposal called for the consultant to “develop the proposed Broadway Corridor Streetscape/Redevelopment Plan.”
Hafiz said Design Workshop set out originally to focus more on streetscape development, but said the group would be more than happy to continue with the project.
The city and consultants will also have to work closely with the Texas Department of Transportation, because much of Broadway is maintained by the state agency, Hafiz said. The agency has begun talking with the consultants already, spokesman Danny Perez said.
“We have had a preliminary meeting with the consultant that is working for the city and we listened as they presented various options,” Perez said. “Once we know how the city would like to proceed, we will make every effort to work with them to address their needs.”
The Broadway Ad Hoc Committee will meet again next Wednesday. The city council won’t likely be taking a vote at its Dec. 14 meeting, however, Tarlton-Shannon said.
“We’re right back where we started,” Tarlton-Shannon said. “If we’re supposed to vote for this in two weeks, I don’t see we’re anywhere close in doing that.”