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2004 Transportation Planning Excellence Awards

Planning Leadership

Award Winner

Houston Main Street Coalitionand the City of Houston Main Street Corridor Planning Partnership

City of Houston Planning & Development Department
Houston, Texas

Many cities create partnerships - but how many can claim to include 70 stakeholders? Under the aegis of the City's Planning & Development Department, Houston's Main Street Coalition includes community groups, government entities, educational/cultural/medical institutions, faith-based organizations, developers, business owners, and others. This coalition, in partnership with the city government, created a vision that has transformed Houston's Main Street into a premier destination.

The block-long fountain and plaza in the newly created Main Street Square is in the heart of Houston's downtown and features the new 7.5 mile light rail system.

The block-long fountain and plaza in the newly created Main Street Square is in the heart of Houston's downtown and features the new 7.5 mile light rail system.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Houston had been in an economic slump. But in the late 1990's, while some saw Houston's Main Street - the city's historical heart -- as a blighted area, visionary community leaders clearly saw its potential as a lively urban center that would revitalize the city. Major private and public reinvestment, master planning, and a single-project planning renaissance began to take place in Downtown Houston, along the deteriorated Main Street Corridor. At the same time, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County was in the process of undertaking feasibility studies and environmental assessments for the development of a light rail line along Main Street.

In 1999, the Mayor of Houston, recognizing the need for unifying these efforts, asked a group of concerned individuals, who were already meeting informally, to address the Main street deterioration issue, to integrate these efforts into a planned approach. The Main Street Coalition and the Main Street Corridor Revitalization Project were the result, with the shared goal of ensuring that these efforts worked in tandem to create a transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly environment about which Houstonians could be proud.

Even the most visionary community leaders could not have predicted the success of the Main Street Coalition. Over 70 stakeholders joined, including private developers, local government agencies, and cultural institutions. The group, which continues to operate, makes decisions based on consensus to make sure that all voices are heard. The City of Houston Planning & Development Department interfaces with and supports the Coalition, playing an instrumental role in coordinating the planning activities among the Coalition partners, implementing the Main Street Master Plan pilot projects, seeking government funding, leading public outreach efforts, developing project partnerships, and overseeing contractual consultant obligations and administering grants.

Recent successes by the Coalition include intervening in the design of the planned light rail system regarding station placement and design. Additionally, the coalition worked with the Texas Department of Transportation on the redesign of an important highway exit ramp near downtown. In its attempt to ensure that all Houstonians have access to Main Street, the Main Street Coalition created and implemented a plan to better connect it with the city's Third Ward, which is predominantly low-income and made up of minority populations. The plan redevelops the area to improve pedestrian amenities, including crosswalks, signage, landscape planting, and lighting (key to safety in this area).

The work of the Main Street Coalition was evident everywhere with the opening of Houston's light rail line in January of 2004. Fountains, pedestrian walkways, and open spaces complemented the well designed stations. Even small additions, like raised crosswalks and attractive landscaping, were noticed and appreciated. The Coalition is looking ahead to the expansion of the light rail system, and plans to develop mixed-use, transit-oriented areas in the future path of the light rail are already underway. Looking ahead to envision a bold future is one of the signatures of Houston's Main Street Coalition.


Jennifer Ostlind
City of Houston Planning & Development Department
611 Walker, 6th Floor
Houston, TX 77002
(713) 837-7871

Updated: 7/23/2012
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