In 1959, the early stages of Memorial City on Houston’s west side began to take shape. Joseph Johnson, the founder of the real estate development company MetroNational, saw potential to transform 200 acres of underutilized land off Gessner Road into a “city within a city.” Now, 60 years later, Memorial City is a prime west side business center and thriving pedestrian hub including a hospital, shopping center, LEED-certified residential and facilities and office buildings, and many top-notch amenities. With its dedication to building best-of-class environments, Scenic Houston is proud to recognize MetroNational as a Scenic Citizen.
Throughout Memorial City’s campus, an array of enhancements improves the pedestrian experience. Color-defining sidewalks provide clear access points and connections to attractions. Comprehensive, on-brand wayfinding signage helps motorists and pedestrians navigate the large site. “We’re trying to build an area where all the uses are supportive of one another,” Marlene Gafrick, MetroNational’s Director of Planning, says. “We think about people and how they walk and get around, where we put the sidewalks in to make sure that Memorial City is easily navigable.”
Marlene joined MetroNational five years ago. Previously, she was Director of Planning for the city of Houston. Her land development and public policy expertise are a perfect fit for MetroNational’s vision. Marlene also serves on the Board of Directors of Scenic Houston, where she is a long-standing member of its Streetscape Committee, which devised and published the Streetscape Resource Guide. Her Scenic Houston involvement provides Marlene another platform to promote best standards for quality streetscape development, in addition to the superlative examples that MetroNational puts in place.
A current MetroNational project is to activate 18 acres on the northwest corner of Gessner and I-10 into an additional pedestrian-oriented environment. Wide sidewalks and bicycle lanes encourage walkability and cycling, and a concrete detention pond was transformed into a park setting to add the benefit of greenspace. To further strengthen the city’s identity, MetroNational buried overhead utility lines along Gessner to reduce aerial clutter. “Getting rid of the overhead powerlines eliminated that visual blight and made the walking experience so much nicer,” Marlene says. “It makes a tremendous visual impact on the street.”
Like Scenic Houston, MetroNational and Marlene recognize that public spaces can provide tremendous value and enhance communities. MetroNational is committed to continued development first-class environments with inviting social spaces, thoughtful design, and vibrant streetscapes that enhance their developments. “We don’t do quick investment for the short term,“ Marlene says. “We do projects well and with good quality.”
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