Controversial Kirby Improvement Project Set To Begin

Not long after protests came on the planned removal of over a hundred oak trees on Kirby in southwest Houston, a project to improve flood control drainage, mobility and pedestrian safety is about to begin. Pat Hernnadez has the story.

Trees For Houston had concerns that the destruction of trees that line the section of Kirby would somehow alter the area’s identity. But Buddy Bailey, Chairman of the Upper Kirby District Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ, says more and faster growing trees will be planted.

Highrise oak tree“This is a Highrise oak tree. It’s not a Live oak tree. It’s a special species that will grow straight up and not out over the traffic. The root structure also will grow straight down so that it won’t impair the pavement and the sidewalk, as you normally see with some Live oaks. A lot of care was taken and specifically in selecting these particular species, because they will grow as high as 40 feet and of the 148 trees that we’re going to plant.  They will match caliper per caliper the trees that we’re taking out.”

Some of the trees being removed will be offered to residents, but Houston City Council member Anne Clutterbuck says the renovation project is a lot more than that.

“First and foremost, this is a drainage project and, you can ask any of the residents that live in the Davey Crockett are, it’s long overdue. If you’ve ever been stuck on Richmond in a thunderstorm, you probably had to wait awhile to watch it drain, and that’s what we’re trying to address. The residents who live in the area of course, were concerned about the trees, but understand that given your options, they want flood control first. I’m delighted that the TIRZ is here to be able to provide that kind of relief on an expedited schedule. Much faster than the city would be able to.”

Rob Axelson is president of the Upper Kirby District Municipal Management Association. It will be their job to beautify the flood control improvements made.

“We’re going to have amenities benches, street lights, trash cans, and litter control, and we’re studying changing the way we decorate this as a corridor so it’ll be an attraction over the holiday season as well. We’re going to have wider sidewalks, a safety buffer between people and the cars so, you’ll have a place to stop as you go across Kirby and hide from the cars, and not have to play ‘frogger’ like you have to play now — if you’re going to Whole Foods over there.”

The project is expected to be completed in November 2009.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.