Some background: On March 19, 2018, Public Works presented a plan to City Council to reconstruct the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce St. and three blocks of North Fifth by the new H-E-B grocery. (Watch the meeting here.) The plan would add public angled parking along the north side of Spruce and the east side of Fifth on City right of way and narrow the streets, eating up the right of way. See Costello Overlays Updated May 2018 . Also fancy lamp posts and trees. Paid for by bond funds for streets and drainage.
Sixty foot wide Spruce would be narrowed to 25 feet with the public parking. Fifth would be widened to 60 feet with angled parking added along the side of H-E-B, so the two traffic lanes will be 25 feet wide. Why here, why now? The explanation given by the City was beautification, based on the Comprehensive Plan and a study by Terrain Studio. You can find information on plans and studies in a recent post.
If beautification of our downtown area is so important what’s with that awful striping layout on the street in the 5200 block of Cedar? No effort expended for a sidewalk or beautification there, that’s for sure. Even though that block contains retail and food businesses.
Business and property owners spoke up at the meeting. 100% of them are opposed to the angled parking and are concerned about their future. Many of the businesses receive deliveries by large trucks, however those trucks will no longer be able to enter the parking areas adjacent to the businesses. Jax will lose a number of spaces and that will impact their business.
No explanation has been provided as to why this is proposed for a commercial street that runs behind a large grocery store. H-E-B is adamant that they had nothing to do with this and planned their delivery area along Spruce based on a street width of 60 feet. The area contains no small boutiques or shops except for a small bakery on Fifth – which will lose its parking spaces. No explanation on why businesses must suffer for all this beauty, either.
The angled parking would block the use of private parking spaces for numerous businesses and eradicate spaces for others. It would prevent deliveries by large trucks and require business owners and their customers to use public parking spaces.
Commercial redevelopment seems to be the ultimate aim of the City Manager, evidently by first driving out the current long-time businesses. Why? Are other businesses waiting to move in? Is there a developer in the wings, waiting to buy up land that will be full of failing businesses or vacant buildings?
You can email to our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org and request that she forward it to the Mayor and City Council. My email of May 16th follows:
Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,
So many folks’ livelihoods depend on what happens along Spruce and Fifth. I hope you will find the time to view the Neighborhood meeting (May 15, 2018) on Facebook and pay close attention to what the business owners have to say. There were 40 to 50 chairs set up and most of them were in use along with a number of people standing. I don’t know how many were City employees or contractors but a fair amount were business and property owners. Also take a look at the latest plans that were laid out on tables in the meeting room.
If you haven’t seen the video you can view it here: https://www.facebook.com/130591610318041/videos/1812164582160727/?q=city%20of%20bellaire%20texas
What I heard from the business owners was their objection to anything that would block access to their driveways, especially angled parking. Not only would almost 30 feet of sidewalk and angled parking hinder or block their driveways and impede access to their business, it would also narrow the street. Since a number of large trucks, from 18-wheelers on down, will be traversing the street off and on all day, narrow lanes will cause access problems for customers. Not one owner was in favor of this plan. Loss of business and loss of livelihoods seems destined to occur.
Many of these people work hard, often six or seven days a week. They are worried about their future and that of their employees. It is obvious that they are feeling anxious and stressed, since plans keep changing, communication from the City is poor, and they have no idea what the outcome may be. I think any of us would be stressed worrying about our jobs and possible loss of income, even loss of our business. Please consider the consequences of this decision.
Most cities would consider widening this type of commercial thoroughfare, especially with the certain increase in traffic once HEB opens. A simple compromise would be to reconstruct the street as engineered for water and drainage, and add sidewalks, including along the edge of the driveways, similar to driveways into the parking lots at City Hall or as part of the driveways in front of the Fire Station.
Mr. Andrews said the angled parking can be removed, sidewalks installed, and wells added for trees. It might be helpful to provide some landscaping assistance to the businesses. Save beautification plans and money for South Rice Avenue from Bellaire Blvd to Jessamine St. and around the new municipal facilities.