HOUSTON-If the Galleria area is the hottest commercial real estate site in Houston, then John Breeding is the “keeper of the flame.” He’s the head of the Uptown Houston Association and his major concern is mobility.

Breeding and the association recently have been focusing on transportation issues, putting a variety of proposals on the table. He reminds Houstonians that the Uptown Galleria area is Houston’s second downtown, with about 23 million sf of office space. It is the 15th largest “downtown” in the United States.

The Uptown group has changed the look of the area, giving it a distinctive appearance marked by soaring arches, futuristic traffic lights and lighting fixtures. Now the group wants to make the privately owned “Water Wall” and its surrounding section of green space near the Transco Tower part of the public domain.

But the area’s pristine property values – and its appeal to retail and office lessees and buyers – could be seriously diminished if people can’t get to, from and around the area. Traffic congestion is the major impediment to further development, according to Breeding. He should know. He had been head of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority from 1976 to 1985, leaving to take over the Uptown Association.

Five targets loom over the Galleria area’s future, according to Breeding. They are regional freeways, public transit, local streets, pedestrian pathways and parking systems.

Among the solutions is the proposed Westpark toll road, which he considers “the biggest thing to happen to the Galleria area since the West Loop.” The toll road’s completion will offer motorists exits at Chimney Rock and Sage, accessing the Galleria complex. The restructuring of the 610 West Loop also will serve to minimize merging and weaving in traffic and create alternate routes. Better access to the freeways is a major need, Breeding says.

The most imaginative project is the proposed Post Oak Transit Mall, which would clear a path for transit down the middle of Post Oak Blvd, flanked on either side with pedestrian footpaths, greenery, shops, and air-conditions open colonnades. “This will be the most beautiful transit corridor you can imagine,” Breeding conjectures.

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