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City prepares for Great Streets remake of Brazos Street

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

On Monday, project manager Robert Hengst described for the Historic Landmark Commission the latest plans for Great Streets along Brazos Street. He described the street’s challenges, including the historic Driskill Hotel; St. Mary’s Cathedral; and the proposed Art in Public Places along the Brazos Street corridor.


For the most part, the commission was satisfied with the compromises along Brazos Street noted in the briefing. The city, with a limited budget on the street, cannot afford to complete the full Brazos Street project, from Cesar Chavez to 11th Street. Instead, the city will offer two alternatives when it lets the contract next summer, with one alternative being Seventh through Ninth streets, and the second alternative being Ninth through 11th streets.


Hengst expressed confidence that the city would be completing the project from at least Cesar Chavez to Ninth Street without additional funding. According to the schedule, the documentation should be completed in the next month, with permits by the end of the year and construction by next June.


As is the case with many Great Streets projects downtown, the historical aspects of the project are key. In this case, that means the intersection of Sixth Street and Brazos Street, which is the intersection of the Driskill Hotel.


The Driskill has improved its own sidewalks outside the hotel, up to Great Streets standards. Hengst said the city had set aside paver bricks from Congress Avenue for at least a decade now and would like to use it in the Sixth Street intersection.


The main concern to the Historic Landmark Commission will be the Capital Metro bus stop. Hengst said plans had varied from minimalist to elaborate. Chair Laurie Limbacher said the HLC would like to see all options before one is selected, including one that would be the staff’s preferred option.


After some negotiating, the city also has agreed to add an eight-foot sidewalk along the St. Mary’s Cathedral lot, minimizing the impact on the historic structure, Hengst said. The city tossed out the original plans, which included parallel parking, in favor of one that would make it easier for parishioners to negotiate the steps.


The Art In Public Places Project that was approved for the Brazos Street corridor was interesting, but not especially historic. Three listening stations, labeled as an artwork piece called Street Orchestra, were located at intersections along Brazos Street were intended to gather sound, remix it and create a type of musical pattern with those sounds that would be rebroadcast for listening stations.


New commissioner Terri Meyers said she didn’t find the elements especially historic, calling them “incongruous” with the context of the existing Brazos Street. Limbacher agreed with the assessment. Staff members said the locations would not be in historic locales and that the artist who had been put under contract for the project was still seeking input from the public.


Hengst and his team were still determining details of the project, such as tree types and light fixtures. Limbacher asked for a future presentation on the bus stop.

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