When Patricia Maddox first moved to Houston about 40 years ago, Spring Branch was one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city, thanks in part to its excellent public schools. “I remember when I moved here from Dallas that Spring Branch was the place that everybody wanted to be,” she remembered. That slowly started to change over the ensuing decades as homeowners began moving to Houston’s booming suburbs and local businesses began to decline.
By the time the Spring Branch Management District was created in 2005 following a petition drive by local businesses, the neighborhood had fallen a long way from its former glory. “A decade ago, families looking for homes or developers looking for property didn’t even consider Spring Branch,” said Maddox, who owns property in the district and chairs the district’s all-volunteer board of directors. “It was like, if you couldn’t afford to go anywhere else, young families would consider Spring Branch. But it wasn’t on anybody’s radar as a go-to place.”
Thanks largely to the efforts of the management district, the neighborhood began to rebound. Private S.E.A.L. security officers were hired to cut down on crime. Esplanades were re-landscaped and new signage began to appear. The district worked with apartment owners to institute background checks on renters, and sought out new businesses to relocate to the neighborhood. They celebrated these results at a special “State of the District” luncheon on the morning of September 30th at the Memorial City Westin, where board members discussed the accomplishments of the past decade and looked forward to the decade ahead.
Also on the docket were representatives of SWA Group, an international consulting firm hired by the district two years ago to help develop a new comprehensive plan for Spring Branch. After meeting with the district’s major stakeholders and surveying the neighborhood, SWA and the board drew up a plan whose objectives include redeveloping Long Point Road into the neighborhood’s true “main street”; building an extensive network of hike-and-bike trails traversing the district and connecting to the City of Houston’s Bayou Greenways; and implementing a flood control plan.
One of the models for Spring Branch has been the Heights, also a once-prosperous residential neighborhood that suffered declines in the 1980s and ’90s before undergoing a renaissance in recent years. Like the Heights, Spring Branch is ideally located close to Downtown, without the historical ordinance that makes it difficult for Heights’ homeowners to make renovations.
Looking back over the past ten years, Maddox is still surprised at how quickly Spring Branch has reemerged as one of the city’s premier residential neighborhoods. “Spring Branch is very, very diverse culturally—it’s a microcosm of Houston. We want to see multicultural centers, art centers, but we have to get the infrastructure in place—the trail system, the detention ponds, the main street concept. This is going to be a beautiful, multicultural town in and of itself that is pedestrian friendly, family friendly, and business friendly.”