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Thread: The Woodlands, TX

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    The Woodlands, TX

    Wow! What a place!

    The only Cyburbia thread I could find was closed earlier this year.

    Just got back from a weekend there.

    Now a city of 80,000 inside 28,000 square acres with many walking-bike trails, village swimming pools, a newly created "small town street scene" and a typical mall with outside the mall shops and stores. A couple of buildings about a dozen stories high adjacent to a lake with a winding waterway with a water taxi, and another one under construction. It has two hospitals, multiple schools, a junior college, a symphony, (ZZTopp was playing there this at their outdoor theatre this weekend), outdoor sculptures, fountains, etc. It has a fire department, mounted police department, etc.

    Really well done landscaping and buffer zones and controlled signage.

    A few outsiders I talked to highly recommended it as a place to live. I concur.

    Although not self sufficient (no industry), it has many wonderful opportunities to work and live within the same community.

    It has a website at thewoodlands.com but it does not have much info for planners.

    I guess you have to be there to appreciate it.

    I plan to share what I found with our Planning Commission, and would appreciate any Cyburbia feedback on The Woodlands, TX.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    If you're into enormous sprawling gated suburban communities with densities around 2000/sqmi, then yes, it is a great place to live. Let's just hope that not too many more places are built like it, unless we want every square inch of North America to be covered in asphalt.

    And really, I did mean the first statement - if you like that sort of development (and I'm well aware that many, many people do), it is very well-designed and a nice place. Just not my cup of tea.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    If you're into enormous sprawling gated suburban communities with densities around 2000/sqmi, then yes, it is a great place to live. Let's just hope that not too many more places are built like it, unless we want every square inch of North America to be covered in asphalt.
    == North American population of 18 BILLION, hmmm, don't think you need to worry about that very soon

    The Woodlands is a good place, pretty easy to get work done in. I've done a couple sites there, and visited several times for concerts at the pavillion. They have some of the coolest traffic signals around. Love the free bicycle-rickshaw, feels like being home. I dislike the Houston area due to its climate, but otherwise it is a very vibrant place with lots of opportunities. I really wish folks would visit Houston and areas like The Woodlands before painting the "no zoning" BS.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Here is a rainy day view of Woodlands Parkway that runs about nine miles east-west through the community:

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    There is not much asphalt visible. I could have taken 10 pictures (one per mile) and it would look the same.

    Right now there are four east-west parkways about a mile apart, and four north-south "parkways" about two miles apart. It bounds I-45 for about a mile and a half.

    Here is a photo of the Market Street retail area:

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    Note all the asphalt. There is an old style downtown movie theatre on the right.

    The next photo shows a grassy "mall," with sculptures, outdoor dining, etc. in front of the theatre (vacant at this time for early morning shoot, and it was misting rain), a characteristic of "sprawl."

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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    It's nice that they are makign the effort to have a bit of a downtown. From the satellite images (disclaimer), it loks like the connectivity is fairly poor and it does look like it was built way out there.

    The longer I look at this issue, the more it seems to em that the way to go for US metro areas is to really push on the infill/browsite/greysite front. I think that needs regulatory effort which may not be possible (as in, no more greenfield development until these x greyfield sites are developed). I guess you'd have to effect some tranfer pricing for taht to work.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Here is the link to a satellite image:

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/money...l?id=PL4872656

    The apparent "poor interconnectivity" is because there are walking-bike-cart paths that go in the green spaces where streets do not "connect."

    Woodlands is north of Houston, TX by about one hour by bus - if you must go to the fouth largest city in the US. However, at an 80,000 population, I think one could find plenty of places to work and play in Woodlands.

    Money magazine selected Woodlands as #73 of 100 best places to live in America in 2006.

    The others listed can be found here:

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/money...e/2006/top100/

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Note in the satellite image that Interstate 45 bounds Woodlands on the east side with north at the top of the image.

    One can see the town center mall immediately to the west then Market Street where the outdoor cafes and movie theatre picture was taken, and a lake immediately to the west of the retail area. Then west of that are the meandering parkways and residential streets (with pathways too small to see in the link).

    One can also see the meandering green spaces of Floodplain protected areas along the creeks.

    The graduation of intensity of land use away from the interstate, separations by green space, and meandering vehicle and people pathways seems like good planning to me, and people around there seem to really like it.

    Disclaimer: I am not connected to The Woodlands or Houston or Texas in anyway except that my son lives there, and that is how I came across it.

    I am interested in knowing planner comments about the plan.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I have some friends and family in and around there. Not a bad place, I personally like McKinney, TX better... The Stonebridge Ranch development. It is a mix of uses though not new urbanist or neo-traditonal... LOL, I laugh at the word neo-traditional... Planned suburban community that is wrapped with open space, ponds and golf courses. No its not S.F. but thats why I like it

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Vlaude View post
    No its not S.F. but thats why I like it
    Wasn't saying every place had to be...hence the second part of my post. I fully understand that many people like this type of development - but the original post simply asked what opinions other planners and Cyburbians had on The Woodlands. I merely offered mine

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Here is a photo of development along the edged waterway.

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    Original layout of Woodlands was started in the late 1970's. New construction is still going strong.

    Here is a shot of multifamily (I think) and a pub along the waterway.

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    This picture shows one of the two or three high rise office buildings. It was really "fixin' tuh rain" as we were leaving.

    I noted that Garvin, in his "The American City, What Works, What Doesn't" listed Woodlands as one of only two new towns started in the 70's with government bond assistance that were profitable in 1995. It was twice as large as any of the other 15 and has since grown from 17,000 acres to over 28,000 acres and is now developing its last of 12 villages.

    Sorry, could not delete the duplicated image.

    Here is a shot of a typical neighborhood.

    Houses and trees appear to be over 20 years old, and it is very pleasant. Note that the houses appear to be too close to the street, in that only two car lengths put the bumper of the rear cars at the street. There is no sidewalk, but there are two concrete walking-bike-cart paths for this loop neighborhood. The cars would have blocked a sidewalk parallel to the street. Houses are also probably too close together (10 feet clear?) for fire protection, mature tree growth, and constraint of view.

    But it is still very pleasant. Coastal and east Texas are apparently like most other southeastern states.
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    Last edited by NHPlanner; 20 Jul 2007 at 8:25 AM. Reason: double reply

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    CDC, I understand... I didn't take it that way, I was giving my 2 cents as you were, as it was requested. I think as planners in general we think we have the answers for everyone in their housing / development needs. In reality while I see a lot of the benefits environmental, social, etc... from certain types of developments I'm not sure you can throw a blanket down and say one is good for all. I like the Woodlands and I don't mind visiting S.F. But for me S.F. is not a place I'd call home, as I'm guessing the same would be true for you and the Woodlands. Both developments IMO have pros and cons.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    The Woodlands would/will be nicer once a commuter rail line gets to town. Trying to drive 30 miles to get into Houston and the surrounding area is pretty bad, and then Houston traffic by itself is also bad.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    It looks a bit, erm 'clinical' from the links and photo's, very clean.

    I would have loved to have seen one of these 'Celebration' or 'Woodlands type communities when i had my one chance for a cheap holiday in the US (Texas), but well, its a big place. Damn. If I ever go back to the US I'm asking you guys for examples!

    Must be wierd having enough space so you can build entire new towns without all that much delay, red tape and 20 year long public enquiries...

    /edit: Plus, having just noticed that pub in the picture, your pubs are rubbish, not a full pint, and you miss the point entirely, your meant to go up to the bar, not be waited on :P

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    TexanOkie:
    I would certainly agree about the unpleasantness of having to drive into Houston. Houston has lost control of its downtown density like so many other cities.

    The Woodlands is a nice place to live in itself, and there are so many businesses/schools/medical/shopping/food outlets there that perhaps one would not have to work or go into Houston often.

    b3nr:
    The pub was a bit stirile, considering that it is new, but you could belly up to the bar! The bar was actually imported from The GooseAcre, an actual pub in Ireland that was demolished, but the bar itself was saved. There is much artwork on the walls and ceiling that adds to the atmosphere (and the unprotected exterior sign will age quickly - adding to the atmosphere), and there was a good selection of beer and ale. I cannot speak to the ale or size as that is not my cup of tea ( 'ell, if it is not a pint - have another!)

    Back to city planning - The Woodlands was started in the 70's and was quite far from Houston at that time. I am sure it would take a long time to develop whole new towns now considering environmental concerns, relocation requirements, and just dealing with the government. It was developed originally by an "evil" Big Oil company, and still serves as an example as to what good city planning can do for liveability of its residents.

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