Happy Holidays! And the Winner Is…

This years award ceremony honored many exceptional projects and people who helped make an impact to WHA and our region in 2019.  Jordan Ranch by Johnson Development Corp. won the award for Quality Planned Developments and Conrad Sauer Park & Detention Basin by TIRZ17 and MetroNational won the award for Sustainability Stars.

Jordan Ranch is 1,350-acre Johnson Development Corporation community in Fulshear one mile from Interstate 10 and near the Grand Parkway. Jordan Ranch sold its first homes in 2016.  Upon buildout, it will provide 2,800 homes to families along with community waterways, 350 acres of open space, greenbelts, parks, trails and a recreation complex offering swimming, grilling, and more. Jordan Ranch’s Director of fun, Solomon Delaney, won the 2019 PRISM Lifestyle Director of the Year.  With a focus on community and fun, the master-planned development includes retail, on-site school, and over 75 community events per year.

Conrad Sauer received the Sustainability Stars award for the designations of investigation, investment, integration, and innovation. MetroNational, backed by TIRZ 17, transformed a concrete basin that had a single purpose of storm water mitigation into a lush vegetated basin that added detention, environmental quality, and other benefits. It is completely unique to the area, not only with the level of collaboration required, but with the transformation of the concrete basin surface using the geoweb “green roof” system. The project provides 12 additional acre-feet of flood retention, improved transportation connectivity, water quality, and air quality.  It also provides the community with gathering and recreation space and new habitat for flora and fauna.  Economic development around the project will significantly increase nearby property values and increase the tax base. The Project, which cost over $18M, will be repaid by TIRZ 17 and maintained by the Memorial Management District.

WHA also gave away 3 inaugural Compass Awards to carry on the tradition of recognizing efforts that inspire sustainable, quality growth. The first compass award was presented to Marlene Gafrick for her work on the METRONext PlanWHA has supported thoughtful transit since its inception.  WHA’s founding Chairman, David Wolff, later served as the Chairman of the METRO Board. The West Houston 2050 Plan and West Houston 2060 Plan both call out the need for improved, grade-separated, high-capacity transit.  The METRONext plan that was on the ballot last month will provide for bus rapid transit on Beltway 8.  This Beltway BRT will connect METRO’s existing Park & Ride facilities near the Beltway to a new facility at Beltway 8 and I-10.  As late as October, this Beltway 8 BRT route was shown as a Gessner BRT route that would run through local neighborhoods at grade level.  The village mayors and City of Houston Council members strongly opposed this Gessner BRT.  Luckily, the West Houston Association and its members, specifically Marlene Gafrick had been following this issue for over two years and working on an alternative.

Marlene, Auggie Campbell, HCC’s Zach Hodges, and others approached current METRO Chair Carrin Patman and CEO Tom Lambert.  METRO’s leadership listened carefully and made thoughtful changes.  This change meant that local leaders dropped their opposition to METRONext.  WHA and TAG co-authored an op-ed in the Houston Business Journal after securing the change to the METRONext Plan.  The bond referendum passed with approximately 68% support of voters.

Our next compass award honors the work of a group of individuals who literally changed the way that people see the West Houston Association and Greater West Houston. The second Compass Award was presented to Kate Wythe of Halff Associates for her work on the 2060 plan and 2019 Economic & Demographics Report.  Advocacy is not just about a solution.  Often, it’s about how you present a solution and the information necessary to give it context. In 2017, John Moody, Marlene Gafrick, and WHA’s Committee Chairs had worked to gather the ideas that became the West Houston 2060 Plan.  At the time, WHA was just considering an update of the 2050 Plan and was struggling with how to present these ideas in a way that would attract attention and inspire the imagination.  Steve Spillette and Ty Jacobs of CDS had just completed the 2017 WHA Economic & Demographic Report when WHA asked if they could project populations and jobs out to 2060.  WHA was still struggling with how to present its ideas but after bringing on Imani Forrest, started to make some progress and produced a number of videos.  Aaron Tuley and Kate Wythe, planners with Halff Associates, volunteered to transform the data and ideas into a planning document.  Kate, Imani, and Aaron worked brilliantly together to create beautiful results.  The West Houston 2060 Plan received an HGAC Our Great Region Award at the beginning of 2019 and has attracted attention from academics from SMU in Dallas to Dartmouth in New Hampshire.

Then Aaron and Kate worked with Steve and Ty & Imani to provide a new WHA Economic and Demographic Report that improved upon previous reports in many ways.  The 2019 Economic and Demographic Report has set a new standard for WHA documents and has given new relevance to WHA as an organization that can help promote the region.

The final Compass Award was presented to Alia Vinson on behalf of Joe B. Allen, to recognize the efforts that led to the creation of Houston Stronger.  This effort provided the foundation for the collective advocacy for the 2019 Bi-Partisan Budget Act, the passage of the Harris County Flood Bond, and inspired the passage of Senate Bills 7 and 8.  Without Joe B. Allen, Alia Vinson, Kristen Hogan of Allen Boone Humphries and Robinson, Houston Stronger and the work that it has done would not exist.  These three individuals and the entire ABHR team have shown leadership and generosity that paved the way for a more resilient region.  Many other individuals and groups, from ACEC to Greater Houston Partnership were instrumental in Houston Stronger.

From start to finish, Joe B., Alia, and Kristen have set the table and made sure that everyone in our community and beyond can come to the table.

Thank you to all who could attend our annual holiday & awards ceremony. We look forward to working with all of our many wonderful members in the new year!