A Master Plan For Wasteful Spending – While Harming Local Businesses

At this point the proposed date for Council’s approval of the project is February 18, 2019.  A pdf of the presentation can be found here: 1_7_19_Spruce&Fifth        

The City of Bellaire seems determined to narrow 60 foot wide commercial streets to 26 feet wide (about the width of a residential street) – for 2 lanes of traffic.  Traveled every day by 18-wheelers!  With 2016 Bond money as part of a project to reconstruct streets, drainage, and sidewalks.

This plan includes angled parking, irrigation systems, landscaping, fancy lamp posts and trees, moving the utilities, etc.  In commercial service areas along side and behind a large grocery store.

Proposed route for H-E-B deliveries. A mountable curb with parking spaces in front of O’Reilly’s for deliveries. What if vehicles are parked in those spaces?

It’s another bait and switch project.  Vote for streets and drainage and get a streetscape while forcing longtime local businesses out of town because they don’t suit the desires of current City attitudes.   To be clear, H-E-B designed their new store based on access to a 60 foot wide Spruce Street for their vehicles.

You won’t find a thing in the original $7.6 bond issue about angled public parking that will narrow a 60 foot wide street, hinder or block access to private parking lots, harm businesses, obstruct the view of drivers exiting H-E-B onto Fifth, and force drivers to back out into the lanes of traffic. 

The project budget for Spruce/Fifth and Maple/Bolivar is $5.2 million.

The construction contract for Spruce and Fifth is $2.5 million.  Add at least half of the  million dollars in engineering contracts and you’re at $3 million dollars.  All approved by a majority on City Council.

City Council is well aware of the elaborate and expensive plan for Spruce and Fifth, since the basis for it was presented to them at a Council meeting in March of 2018.  At that time one council member asked a City staff member about the estimated cost for this project and was told it would be about $4 million.  That could well be the final cost.

Older version of 5100 Spruce. O’Reilly’s will now have angled spaces with a ‘mountable curb’.

Council members had a tour of the streets this past July, so they should be aware of what will happen to the businesses along these streets.  They’ve had opportunities to halt this plan and to direct the City Manager to stick to streets and drainage, not to squander more taxpayer money and City debt on unnecessary projects.

No traffic study has been produced.  The business and property owners agreed long ago on the need for street and drainage reconstruction, however all oppose the streetscape design.  Sidewalks could be incorporated  into existing driveways – take a look at the the driveway for our new Fire Station.

Note H-E-B’s original plan for sidewalks and landscape.

H-E-B chose not to build the planned sidewalks for their store along Spruce and Fifth because they knew the streets would be demolished for the new construction.  They wonder why the City didn’t do this work before the construction of the store.

UPDATE:  At the January 7, 2019, council meeting council members seemed more focused on drainage issues then on a traffic study.  Most didn’t seem too interested in any of the logistics, either.  None of them requested a traffic analysis of this plan.

Will anyone on Council ask “Why was the streetscape included?  How much would the project cost if just the street and drainage work were completed as initially proposed?”

Probably not, because the plans and the bids will only be for the entire project, and the enormous cost for this fluff will be buried somewhere in the fine print.  Only one set of plans has been developed to date and that’s for the streetscape designs.  

Angled public parking on the north side of Spruce – vehicles back directly into lanes of traffic.  18-wheelers turning from Fifth St. must swing wide to make the turn.  H-E-B exits are on the left, as is the access for H-E-B loading dock.  Click for full size.

In the design for Spruce Street at right the rear of H-E-B is on the left .  The yellow highlights show the street 25 foot wide, 7 foot wide sidewalks, and 20 foot deep parking spaces blocking existing private lots.

To reiterate:

  • On a commercial street that runs behind a large grocery store.
  • In an area that includes small service businesses, not shops or boutiques. 
  • Jax, on the corner of Spruce and South Rice for the past 25 years, will lose parking spaces and so lose business.  They stand to lose all the spaces allowed in the street, since that area will be become public parking and open for use by anyone, not just customers.
  • Same thing for other businesses on these streets, many in business for 25 years or more.

The value of a commercial property will decline if a business can no longer provide on-site parking for customers.  Think of Rice Village along Rice Blvd without the pull-in parking spaces in front of the businesses.  

Public parking?  Take a look at the mess in the 5200 block of Cedar.  It looks like some industrial parking lot along the Ship Channel.  And most of the public spaces are filled by vehicles belonging to H-E-B employees.

One train of thought says that this is a plan to drive out the businesses so that a developer can build multi-story apartments and condos along the north side of Spruce.

What cafe patron would want to watch the H-E-B dumpster exchange?

That area was rezoned in 2014.  Until then our zoning ordinances did not allow apartments or condos, only existing apartments that were grandfathered.  Other upscale municipalities  (West University, the Memorial Villages) do not allow them.  Southside Place allowed the new apartments on the perimeter of the small city, along Bellaire Blvd, replacing the Blair House apartments.

The design below clearly shows Fifth Street will be 25 feet wide along the west side of H-E-B.   Angled parking on Fifth between entrances to H-E-B underground parking means vehicles exiting onto Fifth from H-E-B will be unable to see oncoming traffic. 

This streetscape will:

Fifth St. Angled parking along the west side of H-E-B. Vehicles backing into traffic, other vehicles exiting the H-E-B underground parking lot, blind to traffic, views blocked.  H-E-B is on the left

  • Narrow commercial thoroughfares traveled every day by large delivery trucks and 18-wheelers, including all the H-E-B deliveries.
  • Leave little or no room to maneuver large trucks or emergency vehicles.
  • Endanger pedestrians walking across streets to get to businesses
  • Obstruct private business parking lots by installing public parking
  • Make deliveries to businesses difficult or impossible.
  • Create hazards to drivers backing out in lanes of traffic
  • Create hazards to drivers exiting the underground parking lot onto Fifth

What about maintaining all this?  We still have flooded homes,  streets in need of repair or replacement, old water pipes and water leaks all over the city, serious problems with drainage and our aging infrastructure.  Public parking?  Take a look at the mess in the 5200 block of Cedar.  It looks like some industrial parking lot along the Ship Channel.  

Does the City Council believe this sort of treatment of our longtime businesses is appropriate?

Is this what you thought you were voting for if you voted Yes for the $54 million dollar 2016 Bonds for Better Bellaire?   Give this some thought, because the City Manager and City Council are discussing  another $47 million bond issue for 2019!   

UPDATE: The Spruce/Fifth St plans were presented to City Council on Monday evening, January 7, 2019, at 7 PM.  The meeting can be viewed online: https://www.bellairetx.gov/1504/Watch-Meetings-Live-Agendas-and-Minutes

Find more information at: http://www.bellairecivicclub.com/spruce-and-fifth-street-neighborhood-meeting-what-will-happen-to-local-businesses/

Bellaire’s Debt will be $129.8 million at the end of FY2019
Not including the interest

Email the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton at tdutton@bellairetx.gov.  Ask her to forward your email to the Council.


About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: bellairebcc@gmail.com. Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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