Uptown Houston is the nation’s 7th largest Central Business District (CBD) defined by the volume of commercial space. Post Oak Boulevard is the common thread, the heart of Uptown Houston, and a vital transportation corridor to highly valued private development and public open spaces. The landscape architect led the planning and design of The Boulevard Project beginning in 2008 based on the idea of creating one of America’s “Great Streets”. A street with excellent functionality, characterized by a clear design gesture. An urban destination that attracts people to enhances the quality of life, environment, and investment.
The Boulevard Project encompasses a corridor totaling five miles (8km). Two miles of which are Post Oak Boulevard, the remaining three miles are composed of elevated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes connecting Post Oak Boulevard to transit centers north and south providing public transportation connectivity to Uptown Houston from throughout the Houston region.
The Boulevard Project transforms the two-mile Post Oak Boulevard corridor from a 1960’s car-dominated street into a modern, walkable urban destination incorporating multimodal connectivity. It addresses the key mission objectives of creating, preserving, and enhancing the value of this developed urban community; creating a boulevard of uncommon beauty and gracious character, and; ensuring ease of access, connectivity, and comprehensive mobility to the area in a manner that is both sustainable and resilient. The Boulevard Project streetscape design is seamlessly woven into a mature existing urban fabric. It uses architectural elements, gracious, shaded, accessible walkaways, Live Oak allées, and linear gardens with seasonal flowers to define a unique and “green” urban experience with a clear sense of place.
Architectural elements include three-story-tall stainless-steel arches punctuating the Boulevard, gateway sign rings at all key intersections, artful streetlights, traffic signals, pedestrian crossing signals, transit stations, as well as programmable pedestrian lights and holiday lighting elements to serving functional and civic needs.
The Boulevard Project was originally designed as a light rail corridor. However, in the span of time, with shifting political preferences and the re-evaluation of transit technologies throughout the region’s transit system, it became apparent that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was the optimum public transportation modality. The Boulevard Project’s framework remained unchanged even with this modality shift. What did change is the viability of the project, given BRT being the more cost-effective transit technology. Dedicated BRT lanes pass through shaded linear gardens connecting eight stations along the Boulevard.
Between 2013 and 2019, approximately 1000 Cathedral Live Oaks were custom grown for the project. Seven rows of Live Oaks along Post Oak Boulevard form a green canopy over walkways and the street shading paved surfaces, mitigating heat island effects, absorbing carbon, and holding rainwater. Live Oaks are under-drained and provided with a continuous sub-grade growing zone of structural soil with drip irrigation.
Post Oak Boulevard is the heart of Uptown Houston, a diverse urban community of approximately two hundred thousand residents, employees, and visitors from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. It is the stage for community-wide civic events, including the annual Thanksgiving holiday lighting ceremony and fireworks display which attracts more than 150,000 Houstonians to celebrate the start of the holiday season. This event makes Post Oak Boulevard one of Houston’s great gathering places.
The transformation of Post Oak Boulevard creates generously shaded pedestrian walkways resulting in less driving and traffic congestion, fewer carbon emissions, and improved air quality. Twenty percent of the corridor is pervious absorbing rainwater, reducing runoff, and filtering pollutants. Stormwater management is key to Uptown’s long-term sustainability and resiliency. Stormwater detention capacity is designed in the street surface and below-grade systems. The result is an infrastructure that slows and retains stormwater runoff, lessening vulnerability to urban flooding prevalent in Houston.
Location: Houston, Texas, USA
Landscape Architect: Terrain Studio
Design Team: Scott Slaney, Jiae Lee Ham, Blake Rhinehart, Camila Carvalho, Brad Cowan
Engineers: Gunda Corporation
Architectural Elements: Communication Arts / Stantec
Client: Uptown Development Authority
Image Credits: Paul Hester, Uptown Houston