Houston Business Journal
Written by: Olivia Pulsinelli
Rice Village District, a shopping district that’s been undergoing renovations, will launch a new parking plan in February that incorporates some suggestions from a 2015 study about the area.
Changes include switching the location of the area’s free and low-cost parking. Storefront parking will be metered, starting at $1 for the first hour, to help maintain the availability of storefront parking at all times. Rice Village District, which is managed by Trademark Property Co., is switching to storefront meters in coordination with Lamesa Properties, which also manages retail properties in Rice Village.
Meanwhile, Rice Village District’s free parking spaces will increase by 36 percent. Customers will be able to park for free for up to two hours in Rice Village District’s central parking garage and rooftop parking area. (See map below.)
New signage will direct shoppers to the free parking areas, and uniformed parking ambassadors will be available to help shoppers operate meters in the storefront spaces. A portion of the proceeds from the meters will go toward a community Spark Park at nearby Roberts Elementary and the Poe Elementary PTO.
The Parking Advisory Group, based in The Woodlands, served as a consultant to Rice Village District on the new parking plan, which is modeled after several other shopping and dining destinations.
“By optimizing the location and management of Rice Village’s free and paid parking areas, we have created convenient and cost-effective parking solutions for those looking to shop at a particular store as well as for those looking to shop, dine and stay for an extended period of time,” Jerry Marcus, the group’s president, said in a press release.
In 2015, Rice University’s Kinder Institute released a study about Rice Village’s parking problems and related traffic congestion.
According to the study, the area has had a sufficient total number of parking spaces, but the confusing nature of those spots and the difficulty of accessing them was the root of the problem. The study noted little-used private garages, an uncoordinated system of free and paid parking without clear signage to let people know which is which, and area employees without access to dedicated parking spaces as contributing factors.
Some of the study’s suggestions included adding meters to street parking and installing technology that would help drivers know where available spaces are.
Meanwhile, Fort Worth-based Trademark Property has been overseeing a multimillion-dollar renovation of Rice Village District since 2015. In addition to the new parking plan, other changes include improvements to the buildings’ exteriors, new outdoor seating, landscaping and sidewalk improvements to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
The district also will add public art installations, such as a new mural from Houston artist Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr., better known as GONZO247.
Several new tenants have also been announced for Rice Village.
Austin-based Hopdoddy Burger Bar will take over a space at 5510 Morningside Drive that Baker Street Pub & Grill vacated last year. New York-based Shake Shack Inc. (NYSE: SHAK) also plans to open its second Houston location in Rice Village, taking over the La Madeleine cafe at the corner of Kirby Drive and Amherst Street. Hopdoddy is expected to open in February, and Shake Shack should open by the end of this year.
Austin-based boutique Beehive and Nao Ramen House also opened in Rice Village late last year. Longtime restaurant Hungry’s completed its expansion project with the opening of its new second-story bar and lounge area on New Year’s Eve.
Most recently, the Rice Village District announces its longtime Starbucks at 2520 University Blvd. would close and reopen in a bigger location at 2531 Amherst St. this fall.