Asakura Robinson was awarded first place in the 2017 Rice Design Alliance rdAGENTS Charrette competition. This year, teams were challenged to create a “paradigm shift” in East Downtown’s (EaDO) underutilized streets, while building upon tenants of the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s successful Livable Centers program. The competition, titled “X-Change: EaDo Crossroads” attracted a team of six from Asakura Robinson and M Architects who were excited to test their interdisciplinary design skills and best practice knowledge in a real world challenge that would build on the team’s extensive work both in Houston and with the Livable Centers program. The team’s winning design focused on introducing four new street types to EaDo to enable alternate forms of transportation, connect to existing attractions and amenities, and create a complete community for residents, visitors and business owners.
EaDo’s streets currently encourage fast auto travel and are dangerous for bikes and pedestrians, but a wide existing right-of-way provides space to create a walkable, safe environment through public infrastructure improvements like bicycle facilities, sidewalks and traffic-calming devices. Given that development pressure is high in the area, development standards are also needed to guide the private market in achieving a mixed use and multi-modal environment.
In response to these conditions, the design offers a variety of street types, ranging from pedestrian-only to open to auto traffic, in order to both address the varying conditions on the ground in EaDo and to provide options for implementation in other areas around Houston. Tied to these street types are development standards regulating urban design components such as appropriate heights, setbacks and uses.
The team created a three-phase implementation strategy to empower residents and property owners to take the first steps through tactical and temporary projects, and later to guide public investment and attract private development. This strategy includes measurable, specific actions and a comprehensive implementation network to ensure success at every step.
Thank you to the team members: Keiji Asakura, Principal Landscape Architect; Meghan Skornia, Associate Planner; Colter Sonneville, Associate Designer; Brianna Frey, Planner; Jumpei Miwa, Design Intern; and Derek Webb, a Principal at M Architects.