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design is a strategy for change


Community Design Resource Center
The mission of the Community Design Resource Center is to enhance the quality of life in low and moderate income communities throughout the Houston region through design research, education, and practice. Established in 2005, the Community Design Resource Center works to address issues of community development, design, planning, affordable housing and civic projects that meet the goals and visions of our partners. We bring decades of expertise and experience to our collaborations. Over the course of the last ve years we have partnered with more than fteen community-based organizations and we have collaborated with more than 500 residents and stakeholders; we have engaged more than 100 students in community-based learning projects and provided 25 summer student internships.

Contact: Susan Rogers, Director Community Design Resource Center Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture University of Houston 122 Architecture Bldg. Houston, TX 77204-4000 713.743.2403 skrogers@mail.uh.edu

Contents

Introduction History
Historical Maps

5 6 10

Context
Aerial Figure Ground and Street Pattern Land Use Parks Transportation

Demographics
Population and Income Education Ethnicity Poverty

24

Opportunities
Overview Right-of-Ways Inll Sites Strip Malls Multi-Family Retrotting

30

Participants and Sponsors

45

Retail Strip in Alief Photo by Susan Rogers

Introduction
The Alief Super Neighborhood is located in far southwest Houston. The neighborhood is bounded by Westpark on the north, Beltway 8 on the east, West Bellfort on the south, and near Synott Road on the west. The neighborhood is traversed by Bellaire Boulevard which runs eastwest and is the major commercial corridor in the area. Most of the neighborhood was developed in the late twentieth century. Over the last twenty years the neighborhood has become very diverse and is home to the evergrowing Chinese and Vietnamese shopping district. The area is characterized by diverse single-family neighborhoods, large multi-family developments, and busy shopping districts. The Alief ISD school district serves the majority of the Alief Super Neighborhood area.

Site Location Map

Alief Railroad Depot, 1902

1953 Aerial

1978 Aerial

History
The Alief area was primarily rural agricultural land until the 1960s when development began to occur. In the 1860s the area now known as Alief began as a town called Dairy at the source of Brays Bayou. The area was originally a ood-prone prairie. In the 1900s the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Rail Roads built a line through Alief, and opened a train depot in 1902, the depot site is now the Alief Independent School District stadium. According to the City of Houston, during these same years a dentist named Dr. John Magee and his wife, Alief Ozelda Morris Magee, settled in Dairy. Two years later, a U.S. Post Ofce was established in Dairy. The post ofce was located in the Magee home, and Alief Magee was named postmistress. In 1897 Dairy was renamed Alief. The population at that time was 25 residents. Alief Magee died in 1899. She is buried in the Alief Cemetery located at the corner of Bellaire Boulevard and Dairy Ashford. In 1911 the Alief Independent School District was created and a 3-story school was built. The rst high school in Alief, Hastings High, was named after the Hastings family, who were storekeepers and served as Aliefs postmasters. By 1940, the school district had added 11th and 12th grades. In 1977, after a decade of new development, Houston began annexing the areas of Alief that are currently within the Super Neighborhood boundaries.

1995 Aerial

2011 Aerial

Alief Aerial, 2011

Context
The Alief Super Neighborhood is located in southwest Houston and encompasses fourteen square miles. Alief is one of the largest and most diverse super neighborhoods in Houston. The area developed beginning in the 1960s through to the present. Alief is comprised of numerous subdivisions that are disconnected from one another and operate like islands. Brays Bayou ows through the northeast corner of the neighborhood. The north and east boundaries of the super neighborhood are the Westpark Tollway and Beltway 8. The south boundary is West Bellfort, and on the west the boundary is near Eldridge and Synott Road. The neighborhood is best known for the busy Vietnamese and Chinese shopping districts along Bellaire. The major thoroughfares in the neighborhood running east and west are Bellaire, Beechnut, Bissonnet, and Bellfort. Thoroughfares running north and south include Wilcrest, Kirkwood, and Dairy Ashford.

ABOVE: Bellaire Boulevard Retail RIGHT: National Chains in Alief Photos by Alief Student Team

4
0

Figure Ground

Context
The Alief Super Neighborhood is divided by major thoroughfares. The north-south streets occur in approximately half mile increments, and the east-west thoroughfares occur in approximately one mile increments. The areas subdivisions connect at a limited number of points to these thoroughfares, creating islands of housing in the grid of major streets, with each subdivision disconnected from the next.

ABOVE: Street Pattern Diagram BELOW: Neighborhood Islands, 1-3

11

BELLAIRE

BISSONNET

Commercial and Industrial Land Use Map Commercial Industrial

Context
The Alief Super Neighborhood has two major commercial corridors, Bellaire and Bissonnet, which run east and west through the community. There is also a substantial amount of commercial along Beltway 8 to the east. Industrial land uses are concentrated in the southeast corner of the neighborhood near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Highway 59. Housing is distributed throughout the area in small subdivisions, as illustrated to the right. In many ways these subdivisions operate like islands with bridges to the major thoroughfares. Multi-family housing is interspersed throughout the area, but is concentrated along the eastern boundary.

Residential Land Use Multi-Family Single Family BELOW: Alief Photo by Alief Student Team

13

ALIEF TOTAL PARK SPACE (SF):


4

8,886,240
HOUSTON SUGGESTED PARK SPACE PER PERSON (SF):
1

2 3

480
ALIEF PARK SPACE PER PERSON (SF):

85.1
LEGEND:
ABOVE: Parks BELOW: Photos of Arthur Storey Park, Alief Community Park, Boone Park, Harwin Park, and Hackberry Park Photos and Graphics by Alief Student Team

Park Space Multifamily Housing 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Arthur Storey Park Alief Community Park Boone Park Harwin Park Hackberry Park

Context
The Alief Super Neighborhood has ve parks, Boone Park, Alief Community Park, Harwin Park, Hackberry Park, and the recently developed Arthur Storey Park which is in part a ood detention area. The parks total 204 acres, or approximately 85 square feet per person. The City of Houston recommends eleven acres of park per 1,000 residents, or 480 square feet per resident. As a result, it is clear that the Alief Super Neighborhood has a substantial park land decit, totalling nearly 1,000 acres below the recommended standards. In addition, each of the ve parks in the area are in the northern section of the neighborhood. For example, from the intersection of Bellfort and Kirkwood it is nearly three miles to the nearest park.

15

Flood Zone Map 100 Year 500 Year BELOW: Arthur Storey Park

The risk of ooding along Brays Bayou is being mitigated by the stormwater detention basin at Arthur Storey Park

Context
Nearly half of the Alief Super Neighborhood is in the 100-year ood zone, and an additional 25% is in the 500-year ood zone. As a result there are many drainage ditches and right-of-ways that weave throughout the community. The recently developed Arthur Storey Park is intended to relieve some of the ooding risks in the area. The Arthur Storey Park Stormwater Detention Basin is designed to reduce the risk of ooding for residents and businesses along Brays Bayou, as well as provide recreational amenities and added greenspace to southwest Houston. The park is just one example of how the Harris County Flood Control District is transforming ood damage reduction projects into multi-use facilities. The detention basin, completed in 2008, has the capacity to hold approximately 1.1 billion gallons of stormwater during heavy rainfall events.

17

To Energy Corridor

To Energy Corridor To Downtown

132
Dairy Ashford
Wilcrest

Bellaire

To Medical Center and Downtown

67

19

Beechnut

To Medical Center

4
To Downtown

Bissonnet

65 68

To Eastwood and UH

W. Bellfort

To Medical Center and Downtown

8
ABOVE: Bus Routes BELOW: Drainage Ditch OPPOSITE PAGE, Bottom Right: Alief 200 High-Voltage Utility Easement Photos by Susan Rogers

Context
The Alief Super Neighborhood has a four-mile utility easement that runs north and south. The easement is over 200 wide. The area also has over eleven miles of drainage ditches and ve miles of bayous. There are plans to transform several of these right-of-ways into trails connecting schools, neighborhoods, and parks. There are seven bus routes that serve Alief, as illustrated below. The routes connect the area to the Energy Corridor to the north, Downtown, the Medical Center, and the University of Houston to the east. The Bellaire No. 2, which is one of the busiest routes in the city, was recently designated by METRO as a signature bus line.

RIGHT: Map of Utility Easements, Drainage Ditches, Parks, and Proposed and Potential Trails Parks Utility Easement Proposed Hike and Bike Trail (City of Houston) Potential Hike and Bike Trail

19

Alief
1990 T Total Population
86,699

Houston
2009
104,445

2000
97,183

1990
1,630,672

2000
1,954,848

2009
2,191,400

Race/Ethnicity
White Black/African-American Asian Hispanic Other/Two or more races T 47% 19% 17% 16% 0% 17% 28% 20% 31% 3% 12% 27% 17% 43% 1% 41% 28% 4% 27% 0% 31% 25% 5% 37% 1% 29% 23% 6% 41% 1%

Age
Under 18 Years Y Over 65 Years Y 30% 3% 32% 5% 32% 6% 27% 8% 27% 8% 27% 9%

Place of Birth
Foreign Born Residents 25% 40% 42% 31% 26% 28%

Means of Transportation to Work


Drove Alone Carpooled Public Transportation Other (Walk, Bicycle, Work at Home, etc.) 77% 15% 4% 5% 75% 16% 5% 4% 77% 14% 5% 5% 72% 15% 6% 6% 72% 16% 6% 5% 74% 14% 5% 7%

Educational Attainment 25 Years+ Y


No High School Diploma High School Diploma/Some College Associates Degree Bachelors Degree Graduate Degree
*Note: 1990 Data is for population 18 Years+ Y

16% 52% 7% 18% 6%

28% 45% 6% 15% 6%

30% 49% 4% 13% 4%

31% 43% 4% 15% 7%

30% 39% 4% 17% 10%

26% 41% 4% 18% 10%

Median Household Income


Percent of Houston's Median

32,267 123% 11%

36,743 100% 16%

35,849 84% 23%

26,261

36,616

42,797

Percent of Population Below Poverty

21%

19%

21%

Housing Units T Tenure


Percent Owners Percent Renters

35,924

32,874

37,620

726,402

782,378

924,224

39% 61% 11% 6% 2.7

47% 53% 6% 8% 3.2

49% 51% 13% 9% 3.2

45% 55% 15% 24% 2.6

46% 54% 8% 12% 2.7

47% 53% 13% 10% 2.7

V Vacant Housing Units Households without access to a vehicle Persons per Household

Demographics
The Alief Super Neighborhood is just over 14 square miles and home to 104,445 people. The population density of the area is approximately 7,400 people per square mile, over twice the average population density of the city of Houston. Over the last twenty years the population in the neighborhood has increased by over 20%, where Houston has grown by 34%. There are several important demographic changes that have occurred in Alief over the last two decades. For example, Aliefs median household income in 1989 was far over the median for Houston, in 1999 it was equal, but by 2009 the median household income in Alief had fallen below Houstons at $35,849 compared to $42,797. In addition, the percent of the population in poverty has more than doubled in Alief between 1989 and 2009.
$45,000

$40,000

$35,000

Median Household Income, 1990-2009 Alief Houston OPPOSITE PAGE: Demographic Summary Table
Sources: 1990 Census, 2000 Census, 2009 American Community Survey

$30,000

$25,000 1990 2000 2009

21

50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 1990 2000 2009
No High School Diploma High School Diploma/Some College Associates Degree Bachelors Degree Graduate Degree

Change in Population Ethnicity, 1990-2009


White Black/African-American Asian Hispanic

Sources: 1990 and 2000 Census, 2009 American Community Survey

1990

2000

2009

Educational Attainment, 1990-2009


Sources: 1990 and 2000 Census, 2009 American Community Survey

Demographics
The Alief Super Neighborhood is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the city. Currently 12% of the population is White, 27% Black or African-American, 17% Asian, 43% Hispanic and 1% other or two or more races. In 1990 over 47% of the population was White and only 16% Hispanic. The Asian and Black/ African-American populations have remained relatively unchanged as a percent of the population. The changes in ethnicity are illustrated in the graph to the left. Educational attainment for the population over 25 years has also changed substantially over the last twenty years. In 1990 only 16% of Alief residents did not have a high school diploma, in 2009 the number was 30%. Similarly, in 1990 31% held an Associates degree or higher, in 2009 only 21% had a college degree.
100%

1990

2000

2009

1990

2000

2009

1990

2000

2009

1990

2000

2009

1990

2000
Other

90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

White

Asian

Black/African-American

Tenure by Race of Householder, 1990-2009 Own Rent


Sources: 1990 and 2000 Census, 2009 American Community Survey

23

Hispanic

2009

4526

4525

4524

4523

4527

4528

4529

4530

4531

4537

4536

4532

4538

4535

4534

4533

ABOVE: Census Tracts BELOW: Poverty, Place of Birth, and Income, 2009 (Ordered by Median Household Income)
Poverty Born Outside U.S. Median HH Income
Source: 2009 American Community Survey
70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0% 4531 4532 4533 4525 4529 4528 4534 4536

Demographics
Alief is a gateway community, where many new immigrants are settling. 42% of the population in Alief was born outside of the U.S.much higher than Houstons overall rate of 28%. And while the economic success of Aliefs residents has diminished over the last twenty years, there is no relationship between being born outside the U.S. and median household income or poverty, as indicated in the chart at the bottom of this page. This suggests that Alief provides opportunities to succeed to nearly all residents, both old and new.
70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% White Black/African-American Other/Two or more races Asian Alief Houston

Population Ethnicity, 2009 Alief Houston


Source: 2009 American Community Survey
$60,000

Hispanic

$50,000

$40,000

$30,000

$20,000

$10,000

4530

4537

4535

4527

4526

4523

25

4524

4538

$0

$200,000

$150,000

Highway 6

$50,000

0 9 10

Beltway 8

$100,000

Demographics
Alief, like many similar communities outside the center of the city, has seen very little income growth over the last ten years. While, in contrast, many areas inside Loop 610 have seen large gains in income. The graph below charts median household income in both 2000 and 2009 for the census tracts that intersect Bellaire Boulevard/ Holcombe from Highway 6 on the west to Main Street on the east. As the chart indicates, median household incomes outside Loop 610 have remained relatively at for the last ten years, while incomes inside Loop 610 have increased substantially, some tracts by over $50,000 annually.

Median Household Income 2000 Median Household Income 2009

Main St.

610

Houston Median Household Income 2009 $42,797

Bellaire | Holcombe

27

Bellaire Blvd.

Map of Opportunity Sites

Opportunities
The Alief Super Neighborhood is one of the most diverse communities in the city, and this diversity is reected throughout. The area is a destination for shoppers and diners from all over the city. It also has stable neighborhoods, where a very high percentage of residents own their own homes. But, there is increasing evidence that the area is not fairing as well as other parts of Houston. Median household incomes are stagnant and educational attainment is declining. We have identied four opportunities to explore in Alief. The rst is the extensive network of right-of-ways and easements, this system has the potential to connect across the community and generate innovative programming ideas. The second opportunity is four specic inll sites that are connected to this network, the sites are undeveloped. The third is an opportunity to re-think the retail strip center, its relationship to the street, and to civic spaces. And nally, we would like to explore the increasingly pressing issue of distressed mutli-family housing and the potential solutions, strategies, and interventions that might improve conditions.

Retail Midnight Senior Living Families Multi-Family Singles Community Garden Children Park Seniors Playground Teenagers Health Noon Education 6pm
ALIEF

Retail Senior Living Multi-Family Community Garden 6am Park Playground Health Education

Diagram of Users and Potential Programs Graphics by Alief Student Team

29

Harwin Park Chancellor E.S.

Alief M.S. Elsik Ninth Grade Elsik H.S. Hastings Ninth Mahany E.S. Grade Hastings H.S.

Arthur Storey Park Owens I.S.

Alief Community Park

Killough M.S. Boone Park Hackberry Park

Youngblood I.S.

Landis E.S.

Horn E.S. Boone E.S. Olle M.S.

Kennedy E.S. Holub M.S. Mata I.S.

Map of Utility Easements, Drainage Ditches, Bayous, Schools, and Parks

Opportunities
Right-of-Ways
The Alief Super Neighborhood is crossed with numerous right-of-ways, including utility easements, drainage ditches, and bayous. Specically, a 200 wide high-voltage easement runs north and south for approximately four miles through the community and connects several schools. The area also has over eleven miles of drainage ditches and ve miles of bayous that ow predominantly from west to east. The two northern ditches connect schools and community parks on the west with the new Arthur Storey Park on the east, and are included in the current City of Houston Bikeway Plan. There are several other ditches that are not included in the current Bikeway plan but that would add signicantly to the connectivity of the area, including the utility easement. In addition, nding programming that is appropriate for these right-of-ways will be key to ensuring that they are well-used and become a valuable asset for the community.

ABOVE: Diagram of Right-ofWays BELOW: Potential Programs for Right-of-Ways

?
31

Site 1 Bellaire

Site 2

Kirkwood

Site 3

Site 4

Opportunities
Inll Sites
Four inll sites have been identied that provide opportunities for new and mixed programming in the neighborhood. Site 1 straddles Bellaire Boulevard to the south and the proposed hike and bike trail to the north. This site provides an opportunity to consider how housing might be mixed with retail in the area. Site 2 is adjacent to Hong Kong City Mall, between Boone Road and Wilcrest. This site directly connects to the proposed trails along the utility easement and has the potential for many new uses, including housing. Site 3 is just south of Beechnut between Boone Road on the west and Wilcrest on the east. The open site is adjacent to the largest concentration of multi-family housing in the area. Finally, Site 4 is a former golf course that could potentially be transformed into a park and additional civic or community uses. The large site is located in the center of the community.

Site 1

Site 2

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Site 3

Site 4

LEFT: Plan of Inll Sites RIGHT: Inll Sites

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TOP: Potential Strip Mall Section BOTTOM: Existing Strip Mall Section Photos and Graphics: Alief Student Team

Opportunities
Strip Malls
Strip malls dominate the Bellaire corridor from just outside of the 610 Loop west to Highway 6, just past the Alief Super Neighborhood. The strip malls are diverse in use with restaurants, police storefronts, and services such as banking and retail shopping. The strip malls share in common very large parking lots that occur along the street. As a result each of the malls is an island, disconnected from the adjacent malls and surrounding context, and difcult to negotiate as a pedestrian. Developing new strategies or ordinances for the relationship between strip malls, parking, and the street edge could work to re-link these separate entities. In addition, developing programming for strip center parking lots could help these spaces become more than just commercial centers, but social gathering places as well. The diagram below highlights the relationship of building to parking lot along Bellaire.

BUILDING

LOT

BELLAIRE BLVD

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TOP: Diagram of Strip Mall Buildings and Parking Lots along Bellaire BOTTOM, Left: Existing Strip Mall Parking BOTTOM, Right: Montage of Potential Parking Photos and Graphics: Alief Student Team

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ABOVE, Left: Map of Multi-Family Housing RIGHT, Top: Aerial View of MultiFamily Housing BOTTOM, Right: Multi-Family Renovation Project in Alief Photos by Susan Rogers

Opportunities
Multi-Family Retrotting
Distressed multi-family housing, particularly units constructed in the 1970s, is becoming an increasingly common community concern. We ask whether instead these developments could be considered an opportunity to re-think how we do large-scale housing development, how we might intervene in existing developments, or add new programming to support residents. This is an important question that is being explored throughout the Houston region. As a result we feel that the conditions in Alief provide an opportunity to explore potential new futures for aging multi-family apartments throughout Houston. Alief is already home to a number of innovative programs that are working to provide resources to multi-family residents. Among these is the organization Texans Together, which provides tutoring, after-school programs, and other resources to youth.

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Participants and Sponsors


Participants
Community Design Workshop
University of Houston College of Architecture Student Team, Spring 2011 Pratik Emon Mike Cutulle Carolyn Glenn Kim McGrath Courtney Widacki *This document is largely based on research prepared by students in Spring 2011

Community Design Resource Center University of Houston


Susan Rogers, Director Rafael Longoria, Project Co-Director Maria Oran, Senior Research Assistant Nahid S. Haimonty, Research Assistant

Community Stakeholders
Brian Burks Natali Lacasa Gretchen Larson Karen Loper Mike Mauer Barbara Quattro

Professional Guests and Critics


Keiji Asakura Antoine Bryant Robert Burrows Julia Mandell Zakcq Lokrem Patricia Oliver, Dean Bradley Wray, Councilman Rodriguez Ofce

Sponsors
The Collaborative Community Design Initiative is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with nancial and in-kind support from the Greater Houston Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Community Design Resource Center, the Gerald. D. Hines College of Architecture, and the generous commitment of time from stakeholders and professionals across Houston. We would like to thank all of our partners and supporters.

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