The Flow of Progress….Enhancing Mobility In Redevelopment Projects

by Scott Saenger
Vice President, H&H Deputy Practice Leader

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With many neighborhoods in urban centers across the United States undergoing redevelopment, engineering firms are facing a range of new challenges. Some of which are more complex than others – for example when redeveloping an industrial site with an outdated infrastructure such as the Hardy Yards in Houston. The Hardy Yards Redevelopment is formerly the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific rail service yard that dated back to the 1800s near the corner of N. Main St. and Burnett St., two blocks north of I-10 by the new MetroRail line, and just east of UH-Downtown. The site was cleared for environmental rehabilitation back in 2003 in preparation for redevelopment. Revitalization plans focus on an urban, high density and transit-oriented Mixed Use development.


However, before a developer could begin construction, the site’s drainage system had to be improved to address street ponding and allow for roadway and pedestrian mobility enhancements. The former surface area of Hardy Yards was impervious and the neighborhood adjacent to the north had a history of street flooding and street ponding. Hardy Street had drainage that fed to Buffalo Bayou and Burnett Street had drainage that flowed to White Oak. To provide a drainage system that meets today’s criteria and develop a long-term solution that would help increase access to the area, Jones|Carter worked with the City of Houston’s flooding management and water department as well as other key stakeholders to develop an answer that would get buy-in from all stakeholders, including neighbors in adjacent neighborhoods.


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J|C’s plans included improvements to the area’s drainage and storm sewer system.


After conducting research, Jones|Carter developed a plan that leveraged the low depth of the existing storm sewer. Drainage capacity was increased by making the pipe 60” to 66” in size to replace the 42” to 48” pipe. At the same time, Jones|Carter was required to implement new internal drainage to get the water to flow from the site to the new sewer system. The larger pipe sizes and reduced slopes of proposed sewer provide additional storage in the storm sewer and improve how the overall system functions during an extreme event. As a result of these improvements, the neighborhood has already increased in both value and attractiveness.


Improving the Overall Community with Infrastructure Improvements

The new storm sewer system benefited both the redeveloped Hardy Yards neighborhood and its neighbors to the north through the following:

  • Reducing the 2-year hydraulic grade of the system and street ponding.
  • Significantly reducing 2-year hydraulic grade for the storm sewer system along Burnett Street because of the downstream location of proposed storm sewer tie-in. Does not adversely impact areas upstream or downstream of project limits.
  • Reducing the 2-year hydraulic gradient of the system including at Main Street tunnel, where critical elevations are exceeded in existing conditions.


Part of a 5 phase redevelopment of Hardy Yards, the sewer system project was done in coordination with a range of public stakeholders. Intense pre-work to engage the client and the effected community in advance have laid the groundwork to create a highly desirable, close-in neighborhood, capable of changing the landscape in this underserved area.


The Hardy Yards project was nestled in the heart of downtown Houston so the work had major effects on the community.


Jones|Carter worked on an ongoing basis with multiple public entities including the City of Houston, METRO, and CenterPoint Energy throughout execution of this project. To that point, Jones|Carter made a number of transportation improvements to increase pedestrian mobility, including partial tunnel removal and a signalized intersection at Burnett Street as well as working with Metro to allow for easy pedestrian access from transit station to sidewalk along Burnett Street and other parts of the development.


During both design and construction phases, Jones|Carter met regularly with the client to not only address issues and concerns, but also to maintain project continuity and quality of deliverables.


Hardy Yards
J|C collaborated with City of Houston, METRO, and CenterPoint Energy to manage the transportation infrastructure aspects of the project.


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