A New Oar in Houston’s Waters

HOUSTON – (By Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report) – The concept has been floating around downtown for months now.

The logic: Houstonians can travel on planes and trains, on light rail and bicycle lanes, on sidewalks, pathways and paved trails. Commuters travel in cars and trucks, electric vehicles and buses  But what if Houston dives into the unthinkable – transportation by watercraft.

The initial vision is limited to a three- or four-mile stretch of Buffalo Bayou through downtown and the districts immediately to the east and west of downtown.

A fleet of water taxis will carry the load, transporting a steady flow of passengers to a series floating docks at key landing points that will give riders access to restaurants, residences and workplaces.

The water taxis will provide recreational trips for Sunday sightseeing or a fun Friday cruises to a new place for lunch, in addition to entertainment for conventioneers. At this embryonic stage it’s hard to fathom, but soon an optimist will be asking: “Could Houston’s water taxis become as popular as the boats at the San Antonio River Walk?“

Commuters wouldn’t be left out. Downtown workers who want to avoid expensive parking lots, or students at University of Houston Downtown could take the water taxi. A boat that stops at Allen’s Landing gives passengers access to downtown Houston, the METRO light rail and a five-minute walk to skyscrapers, high-rise residential and hotels.

The acclaimed development of the Buffalo Bayou linear park on west side of downtown made Houstonians see that maybe Houston isn’t the ugly duckling of old stereotypes.

The Buffalo Bayou park made people realize that the bayou could be a beautiful place and that it had been ignored and disrespected long enough, says Brad Freels, chairman of Midway, which is developing the 150-acre East River development that features a long stretch of bayou frontage. The bayou is municipal jewel, he says.

“We’ve never embraced one of our largest assets,” Freels said. “We need to show it off.”

Freels is ready to build a water taxi dock at East River and another at the East River 9 golf course at the other end of the property.

The water taxi concept could become another building block in downtown growth and the advancement of the convention business and tourism.

“We’re intrigued by the idea,” said Kris Larson, President and CEO, Downtown Houston+. “Houston’s birthplace is in Downtown at Allen’s Landing, and our organization has a proud history of supporting Buffalo Bayou Partnership from its inception. With Downtown’s connections to bayou parks and trail systems, and our neighbor at East River building steam just downstream, we welcome further exploration.”

Other synergy could come from the Port Houston authority, which is preparing to break ground on its new 100,000-SF headquarters office building at East River. The Port certainly has access to talent that could pilot the bayou boats.

The naysayers will say the ebb and flow of Buffalo Bayou is too wild and inconsistent. The naysayers will proclaim that the bayou waters can be destructive in a great flood. Those are the same voices that were heard after the great downtown flood of 1921 in San Antonio. Then, a visionary young architect, Robert H.H. Hugman, designed a plan to create San Antonio’s River Walk.

Possible Houston Water Taxi Stops

One: Sabine Street Bridge

Two: Bayou Place (Cordish Company. Former Albert Thomas Convention Center)

Three: Post Houston (Frank Liu. Lovett Commercial)

Four: University of Houston Downtown

Five: Allen’s Landing (Historic. City founders)

Six: James Bute Park

Seven: East River mixed-use (Midway)

Other Access Points, Nearby Attractions, Landmarks and Possible Future Water Taxi Landing Sites: Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Sabine Street Lofts, Sam Houston Park, Hobby Center, Wortham Theater, Houston Aquarium/Tilman Fertitta, Sesquicentennial Park, Sunset Coffee Building, San Jacinto Bridge (built circa 1914), the Joe Campos Torres Memorial, McKee Street Bridge, Hill Street Bridge, East River 9 golf course, and the Houston Police Officers Memorial.

A proposed water taxi dock site is shown on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in Midway’s new East River development. The new 150-acre development includes office, restaurants, multifamily and the East River 9 golf course. Photo: courtesy East River.

March 18,  2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024

Photos: Courtesy East River

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