April 11, 2013 -- Mayor Annise Parker today announced details of a plan that will provide funding for Memorial Park improvements and construction of a mass transit corridor on Post Oak Boulevard. The plan relies on City Council approval of the extension of the boundaries of the Uptown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #16, which currently encompasses the Galleria and surrounding area.
“Memorial Park is one of the crown jewels in the Houston parks system,” said Mayor Parker. “With the assistance of the Uptown TIRZ, we can repair the devastation left by the drought and return the park to its former beauty for generations to come. We also have an opportunity to improve mobility in the heavily congested Uptown area. This is a visionary plan to meet two important community needs. I hope City Council will join me in support of it.”
“The project will first focus on the creation of an updated master plan that is expected to include site remediation, erosion control, removal of invasive non-native plants, the reestablishment of native grasslands and forests and facility needs,” said Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner. “This will position Memorial Park as an east-west gateway that connects the park to the greenways initiative currently underway along Buffalo Bayou from Shepherd to downtown.”
Another partner in this project will be the Memorial Park Conservancy, Conservancy Board Chair Jim Porter commented “The Memorial Park Conservancy is delighted to work hand-in-hand with the City and Uptown, as well as other partners such as the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, to ensure that future Houstonians will have a healthy, natural park of scale and beauty that is nurtured and maintained for all to enjoy,”
The transit improvements include the widening of Post Oak Boulevard to allow for construction of bus rapid transit lanes within the median while still preserving six lanes of automobile traffic.
“With office, residential and retail markets flourishing in Uptown, the area needs a substantial transit improvement plan to serve its growing needs,” said Uptown Houston President John Breeding. “And it’s clear that as Uptown prospers and grows, Memorial Park would play an important role in providing an enhanced quality-of-life and ultimately connecting Uptown Houston to Buffalo Bayou Park and Downtown Houston.”
The proposed TIRZ expansion calls for annexing 1,768 acres of land into the TIRZ. This additional land consists primarily of public rights-of-way, public parklands and bayou waterways. Of the total acreage suggested to be added to the zone, only 36.42 acres are currently taxable property. These are parcels designated to be the site of METRO’s future Westpark Transit Terminal.
City Council has scheduled an April 24, 2013, public hearing on the TIRZ expansion and amended project plan.
The estimated cost of the park and transit projects is $556 million over a 25-year period. The funding would come from revenues generated as a result of incremental growth in property values within the TIRZ boundaries.