Armed with colorful Sharpies, cups of coffee and at least one expert at each table, over 40 Texas Christian University-area residents and stakeholders drew what they wanted their neighborhood to look like on table-size maps Saturday morning.
Priorities ranged from more and wider sidewalks and more parkland to fixing stormwater flooding in the historic neighborhoods.
“If you know what you want, you can code for it. That is the idea,” said Lee D. Einsweiler, a principal designer for Code Studio, a consultant working with the city to create a form-based code in the Berry/University Urban Village. The code is detailed zoning to guide development to match neighborhood needs.
Maps of current zoning, stormwater flooding, bicycle routes and current transit stops were hung on a wall to give residents a starting point, Einsweiler said.
“These are the facts, but the community brings the perceptions. Perceptions of safety; perceptions of what they like and what they don’t like,” he said.
Resident Martha Jones said that the neighborhoods need to be preserved, that the city needs to create a walkable environment that incorporates both residential and mixed-used development and that the city needs to encourage affordable housing in the area.
“We spent a lot of time talking about what doesn’t work before we came up with what would,” Jones said of her group’s planning.
“If the neighborhoods disappear, I think it will really deter what could happen here,” she said, adding that a city-proposed overlay to lower from five to three the number of unrelated adults who may live in a single-family home in neighborhoods around TCU needs to be hashed out as part of this process.
Other ideas included wanting to move parking lots to the rear of buildings, adding landscaping, tearing down dilapidated buildings, dealing with traffic congestion and creating transition zones from the retail to the neighborhoods to the university.
The long process of creating a form-based code will probably take until next summer, Einsweiler said.
Once complete, Berry/University Urban Village would join a select few areas of town with specific design and development standards, including downtown — which has the Downtown Design Review Board to review projects — and the near south side.
Development in the near south side is regulated by 52 pages of design standards, including setbacks, maximum number of stories, parking, street sizes, roof slope and building materials.
New ideas for stormwater
One concern for residents is flooding, and Steven Eubanks, senior professional engineer in the city’s stormwater management division, said options to solve that problem are being studied during the intensive development-planning process.
Simply adding bigger pipes to move more water out of the area could cost $40 million to $60 million, Eubanks said, so other solutions are being sought, such as creating more green space to soak up water and opening up old creeks.
Francois de Kock, project manager with Halff Associates, a consultant studying whether the open space will be possible, said the main challenge is working in an already developed area. That includes acquiring land for parks and green space, reopening closed creeks and replacing streets with permeable pavement.
“It is a new way to look at stormwater infrastructure. Instead of something to get rid of, it is a resource to celebrate,” Kock said.
If the extensive study, which could take a year and a half, finds it cost-effective to revamp stormwater management in the Berry/University area, the new methods could also be used in other inner-city neighborhoods experiencing the same problem, Eubanks said.
“We know we can’t just do business-as-usual, which is bigger pipes,” Eubanks said. “Hopefully this will become a model we can use in the rest of the city.”