Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How will the Baybrook expansion impact mobility?

The proposed Baybrook Mall expansion might be of concern to some local residents who could be negatively impacted by changes in rights-of-way and mobility.  As a distant early warning, I describe this potential in the post below, based on the very incomplete information that has been released to the public thus far.

A couple of news outlets, including Houston Chronicle (paywalled), KPRC, and Bay Area Citizen reported on this expansion yesterday.  In conjunction with that story, the developer released this artist's rendering, which was republished by all of those news outlets:
Screengrabbed from this source image.  
Those of you who are familiar with the Baybrook area may find this to be a bit of a head-scratcher.  From this rendering alone, it is difficult to understand where the improvements are in relation to the rest of what currently exists.  My first question was, "What happened to IH-45?" because intuitively, I couldn't put the spatiality together.  My second and potentially more important question was, "What happened to Baybrook Mall Drive?"

So out of curiosity, I decided to yank together a few other aerials to see if I could make sense of this.
The artist's rendering shows an oblique angle whereas the Googlemaps image is taken from straight overhead.  I rotated this Googlemap image so that it would approximate the oblique rendering.  This seems to be very roughly where the new improvements will sit, if I'm interpreting things correctly.    
For reference, here's the artist's rendition annotated with two of the spatial markers that are the easiest to spot:  The iconic water tower next to the Texas Art Supply building, and Baybrook Mall Drive.  
Here's why this is important:

Here is the obvious question:  If we really are going to lose Baybrook Mall Drive, what compensatory measures are being included in this design to offset that loss?  Are there one or more new rights-of-way being included in the overall design to relieve congestion?  This expansion will make Baybrook into one of the largest shopping complexes in the greater Houston region - but how are we local residents going to be able to drive around it?

Anyone who is familiar with this area knows that Bay Area routinely gets gridlocked in front of the mall.  There are subdivisions and other developments on West Bay Area Boulevard that can only be accessed efficiently during peak times according to the diagram above.  You can't cut southward from El Dorado Boulevard, for instance, because El Dorado also gets severely congested near IH-45 due to its own retail density and also because there's a CCISD middle school a short distance from the freeway.  And you can't cut northward from NASA Road 1 because the route is just too circuitous and long.

Bottom line:  I personally think we need to retain Baybrook Mall Drive or add some other right-of-way which serves an equivalent mall by-pass function.

Hopefully the mall owners and developers will be able to furnish more complete design drawings and some answers to these questions in the near future.  Additionally, I'm assuming Baybrook Mall Drive is a full public right of way, which means that there'll probably be some kind of a public notice process before it can be condemned.  That would be the time for potentially impacted parties to speak up.  I would think that the retail owners on the far northwest side of this complex (on West Bay Area Boulevard) would also be interested in the answer as well, as these mobility issues would be expected to impact the ability of shoppers to get to their area.

I've based this post on very limited information, so these interpretations are subject to considerable uncertainty.  If anyone has additional details that could help correct or clarify my guesstimates, I'd appreciate receiving that information via the Comments section below or via at gmail.


  1. From the artist's rendition, it seems *possible* that they will be adding a new side street that goes in a big semi-circle around the top right side of the picture. It seems to connect to the original Baybrook Mall Drive near the water tower. I usually take Glenwest Drive to the mall, and it's never seems too congested.

  2. I saw that, but I couldn't tell whether it was designed as extending all the way to the IH-45 feeder. I find it odd that this project is apparently months underway and yet next to no public information has been released.


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