Busy times ahead

Houston Chronicle, by Danny Perez

Midtown group says more green space, technology center on agenda
Officials with the Midtown Redevelopment Authority say they plan to monitor traffic flow and new housing developments while adding green space to the expanding area through its tax-revenue financial structure.

The group presented an overview of completed projects and new additions to Midtown in a meeting Tuesday at their offices, 3401 Louisiana.

F. Charles LeBlanc, executive administrator for both the Midtown Redevelopment Authority and Midtown Management District, announced several projects he said will “keep us busy for a while.” The district”s 2001 tax property value has increased from $ 153 million in 1995 to $ 553 million, LeBlanc said.

In addition, he said about 5,000 people are currently living in the district, and coupled with new housing construction, the number could jump tremendously.

However, John Gonzalez, chairman of the Midtown Management District, said they are doing everything possible to keep the area pedestrian friendly and to keep traffic problems at a minimum.

“Midtown still has the old-grid street pattern,” he said. “The streets aren”t that intimidating.”

Another of Midtown”s unique features is its trees and green space, and the authority said it is working hard to preserve and expand both.

LeBlanc said that for every one tree that is cut in the district, 10 new trees goes up in what is a trade-off with property owners and developers.

To increase the amount of green space in the district, LeBlanc said there are plans for a new $ 400,000 park called Midtown Park at 415 Gray, which will feature artwork, benches, landscaping and several trees. Ground breaking for the park will be held this summer.

Several decorative streetlights are also sprucing up the area, LeBlanc said. Approximately 535 of 17,000 turn-of-the-century streetlights already have been installed throughout the district. The rest will be installed over the next five years.

The authority lauded the Houston Technology Center, 410 Pierce, which will serve as a launching pad for upstart technology, energy and life sciences businesses. The $ 3.4 million facility is set to open this summer.

Many of the projects that are being undertaken in the district are possible because of the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No.2, which allows the Midtown Redevelopment Authority to use tax revenues on improvements within the district.

For more information on improvements to Midtown, call 713-526-7577 or visit its Website at www.houstonmidtown.com