Why This Sudden Interest in Spruce Street?

When Bellaire voters approved a bond issue for $24 million dollars for Streets, Drainage, and Sidewalks with the explanation that ‘Projects will address replacement of streets and drainage systems in order to reduce the occurrence of flooding and improve street conditions’ they probably thought the City would install new storm sewers, replace corroded water lines, repave tired streets, rebuild damaged curbs, and complete a contiguous sidewalk along at least one side of every street in Bellaire.

Instead Council is looking at approving a plan to add angled parking along the north side of the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Spruce Street and along the east side of Fifth Street from Spruce St. to Bissonnet. A design that would negatively impact the businesses located along these blocks, narrow a commercial street that will be used by large trucks from 60 feet to 25 feet in width, and use up about one-fifth of that $24 million dollars.

This is an excerpt from the recent Presentation of Spruce and Fifth Street Design Considerations:

Previous Council Action Summary:

At the December 4, 2017 City Council meeting, the Public Works Department presented the Bonds for Better Bellaire 2016 program and this project was briefly discussed. The discussion centered around the aesthetic treatments for the streets and the integration of those treatments with the HEB development.

The phrasing in this statement would seem to indicate that City Council approved this design in December of 2017. However, that presentation concerned five contracts requiring Council approval. All five were approved, including a contract for $510,350 to Kaluza & Associates for design of the work on Spruce, Fifth, the 4500 block of Maple, and the 500 block of Bolivar.

There was no mention of HEB or aesthetic treatments at that time. In fact, Council members clarified that the projects were not at the construction phase and could be reviewed and designs could be changed.  However, business owners have been advised by the Public Works director that per City Council’s directive the City is moving forward with this project while communicating with business owners.  So apparently this has been approved by someone other than Council.

View the December 4, 2017 presentation here:  Bonds_Presentation_12-4-2017.

The sketchy presentation on March 19, 2018, contained no information on the projected work on Maple or Bolivar, only on Spruce and Fifth Streets. In fact very little information was provided, period. Modified sketches from the Terrain Study showing renditions of about a half-block of a generic street. Nothing about the negative impact on the businesses located on the north side of the street, all of which seem to have plenty of parking already.

No recent aerial views of the blocks affected by this proposed project, showing how the angled parking would affect the current businesses and parking areas. No reports on meetings with the local business owners. Four business owners spoke out at the meeting against this design and the lack of communication from the City and many other business owners were in attendance as well.

Picture a narrow street with angled parking down one side, really long pickup trucks and SUVs sticking out into the street, access to the parking lots of businesses on Spruce blocked or almost impossible to access. Vehicles heading west on Spruce dodging jaywalkers, while delivery trucks and 18 wheelers head down the other side to the rear of HEB.

Why is this being proposed at all, what’s the point of a multi-million dollar project that faces a gas station and the back of the HEB store along one block and several small businesses and the side of a motel along the next block? There are no boutiques, no restaurants besides Jax, and there’s already plenty of parking. Is this what Kaluza & Associates proposed, or were they directed by someone from the City? Is there some hidden agenda here? Are our longtime businesses no longer welcome?

My question to Public Works and the contractor for this project is: How much will it cost to simply install the necessary sewer lines, water lines, and decent sidewalks for these streets? No angled parking, no narrowed lanes, no fancy lamp posts and no trees that require a lot of water.  If aesthetics are a concern perhaps the City could provide some assistance to the businesses with low maintenance landscape designs once the drainage improvements are complete and the streets are repaved.

What do you think? Email our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at tdutton@bellairetx.gov and request that your email be forwarded to Bellaire City 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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