By Jeremy Williams, Graduate Student in Urban Planning
It’s no secret that the Northgate district is growing rapidly. The area’s proximity to campus as well as restaurants and night life create an attractive place for new students to live. As a result, residential development is booming along the University Drive corridor.
Just how many people will be moving in? Here are some numbers that City staff presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on August 15, 2013. These developments are currently planned and/or completed for the University Drive Corridor:
Northpoint Crossing (The former site of the Plaza at University Drive and Texas Avenue)
Approximately 11.5 acres, 603 units, 1,900 bedrooms
The Stack Approximately 3 acres, 209 units, 416 bedrooms
U Centre at Northgate Approximately 12 acres, 196 units, 784 acres
Rise at Northgate Approximately 1 acre, 172 units, 473 bedrooms
1st Street Property (Property owned by the City of College Station where Café Eccell currently is.) Approximately 3.4 acres, estimated 200-300 units, estimated 400-600 beds.
From these projects alone, the City of College Station should be preparing for more than 3,500 new residents along this corridor with more than 90,000 sq. ft. of non-residential space.
With the large number of new students planning to move just across the street from campus, there are plans in the work to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in the area. The first phase of this plan is already in place, and many students walk through it every day.
In the first phase of improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, parallel parking was removed from University Drive to allow for a wider sidewalk. A short wall was also installed along this newly widened sidewalk to protect pedestrians from automobile traffic. College Main was closed to create a full time pedestrian-bike mall. By closing this street to automobile traffic, the left turn lanes on University Drive were removed. This was replaced with raised medians for pedestrian refuge, which is important for students who may not be able to cross the street safely in the allotted amount of time. Dedicated bike lanes were marked for cyclists to safely move from the Northgate area to campus. The newly created pedestrian mall provides a safe, secure, and attractive gathering place while supporting heavy pedestrian traffic to and from campus.
The second phase of improvements will focus on improving bicycle and pedestrian travel from Lodge Street to College Avenue. This will add to the recent improvements around the College Main intersection. A public meeting was held November 5, 2012 with a second meeting to be held in the very near future as part of the planning process. Once the design is complete, construction will likely begin in 2015.
As development continues in the Northgate district and along the University Drive corridor, it is important to remember that this will mean more bicyclists and pedestrians moving to and from campus. As Aggies, we should look out for one another whether by foot, by bike, or behind the wheel. Safety improvements of the surroundings for bicyclists and pedestrians are important, but personal awareness of your surroundings is what will keep you and your fellow Aggies safe.
Special thanks to Bob Cowell, Director of Planning at the City of College Station, Venessa Garza, Bicycle Pedestrian and Greenways Program Manager for the City of College Station, and Dr. Shannon Van Zandt, Texas A&M University College of Architecture.