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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Texas

Post Midtown Square
Project Mixes Shops, Housing
Wal-Mart Bullies Residents

Post Midtown Square
Project Mixes Shops, Housing

Houston is better known for pollution than for smart growth. But the Post Midtown Square development is a small step towards changing that.

Healing Houston's Downtown: Post Midtown Square offers a range of housing choices near public transportation, shops and community space. Courtyards (left) give residents a common space to relax.

This unique 479-unit project provides a mixture of shops, apartments and flexible space for use by the community. Two blocks from downtown and in close proximity to the Houston Metro Trolley line, the project allows residents to ride public transit or walk -- instead of adding to the region's air pollution while trapped in traffic.

Given the intriguing use of open space and innovative design features, residents may not want to go far. The carefully designed landscaping features New Orleans-style courtyards with outdoor fountains and gas lanterns. By focusing development within the downtown, Post Midtown Square developers are protecting the equivalent of nearly six city blocks of open space somewhere out in the suburbs.

The citizens of Houston clearly recognize the benefits of downtown living. In fact, the developers of Post Midtown Square can barely build the units fast enough to keep up with demand. But Houston -- where planning has long been a dirty word -- still has a long way to go.

Photo by Steve Hinds

Wal-Mart Bullies Residents

How many Wal-Marts are enough for a city like Dallas? Five? Ten? According to Wal-Mart, 40 new stores must be built in the North Texas area within the next year. Dallas-area residents are understandably concerned about this reckless rate of growth, and no community will be more impacted than Rockwall, where a new store is slated for construction very close to a residential neighborhood.

The new Wal-Mart bears all the signs of poor planning. Zoning for the 13-acre tract of land, which currently provides some protection against poor development, will have to be changed for Wal-Mart to move forward with the 42,000-square-foot store. But residents are caught between a rock and a hard place: Wal-Mart can build on a portion of the site whether zoning changes are approved or not. In that case, the store will be built immediately adjacent to residential areas, with absolutely no buffer zones or greenbelts. While rezoning creates some minor protections for the residential areas, this will amount to surrendering to the larger development.

The store's location near Highway 66 means most shoppers will drive, subjecting the residential neighborhood to dramatically increased traffic and congestion problems -- problems already aggravated by new residential development to the north of the city. In addition, residents are concerned about drainage problems at the site. These and other attendant problems of suburban sprawl are likely to get worse as several thousand square feet of additional retail space adjoining the Wal-Mart are developed.

Planning tools can be powerful in the hands of those who understand how to use them to promote smart growth. In this case, these tools are being misused, and the residents of Rockwall and other Dallas communities are suffering.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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