Newly-elected Mayor Sylvester Turner was on hand Tuesday to help announce a plan to redevelop Broadway Street from Interstate 45 to Hobby Airport—a stretch of pavement most Houstonians (and visitors) would agree has been in desperate need of attention, riddled with potholes and generally providing the worst possible introduction to the Bayou City since the Allen brothers carved a boat landing out of mud and swamp.
A $17 million reconstruction of Broadway is already underway, using federal funding administered by the city of Houston and TXDOT. The plan unveiled today by Scenic Houston, a nonprofit focused on streetscape enhancement, will complement the reconstruction using an additional $7.5 million to beautify Broadway.
Scenic Houston’s plans include adding more than 400 oaks and other trees to at least 100 existing trees, mostly in the wide median running along the street. New LED lighting, more than 30 types of plants and flowers, and brick pavers along the crosswalks will also be added. “First impressions are lasting impressions, and this will make a positive lasting impression,” Turner said.
Anne Culver, the president of Scenic Houston, admitted the first impression many visitors currently get of Houston is not positive: Potholes aside, the area along Broadway is lined with older apartment complexes, vacant lots and strip centers that haven’t received any upgrades in decades.
But multiple recent developments in the area could lead to a renaissance. In October, Hobby completed its new $156 million international terminal, which is expected to have a $1.6 billion impact on the local economy and add 10,000 jobs to the region. Across the Gulf Freeway, plans are underway to transform the Glenbrook Golf Course into a 120-acre botanic garden. And nearby, Sims Bayou is receiving its own much-needed facelift with 14 miles of hike and bike trails.
Scenic Houston has raised $4.9 million of the $7.5 million for the project from a mix of public and private donors, including the Brown Foundation, Houston First Corporation, Cadence Bank and H-E-B. Another donor is the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee—which means the improvements are on track to be completed in time for the 2017 Super Bowl.
Mayor Turner said that although the Super Bowl is part of the equation, redevelopment of the area should be a lasting improvement for the area’s residents. “Broadway is one of the signature streets in the city of Houston,” Turner said. “What’s taking place here will transform not only Broadway Street, but will also transform this area as a whole, and that’s a tremendous plus.”