Scenic Houston plan for more appealing airport corridors wins approval

Going to and from Houston airports will be a more visually appealing experience under changes to the Houston sign code proposed by Scenic Houston and approved by Houston City Council today. The plan designates the freeways between Houston’s airports and central business district as Airport Corridor Districts where new business signage – excluding billboards – must adhere to specific height and size restrictions.

“This goal was three years in the making and represents common ground between the development community, the commercial property owners who pay for the signs and other stakeholders,” said Scenic Houston Chair Marlene Gafrick. “We get just one opportunity to make a positive first impression. These changes will spur removal of clutter and blight, providing welcoming and more attractive entryways into the city from Hobby, IAH and Ellington Airports. They will also reduce driver distractions.”

In addition to creating the Airport Corridor Districts, the sign code amendments will allow sign owners to upgrade to LED lighting and also define the differences between truly abandoned and neglected signs and signage with market value that may not be in use today, but is being properly maintained for future use. Regulation of both abandoned signs and signage not in use will be significantly improved as a result of these amendments.

“We view this as part of a long-term effort to bring greater focus on the importance of maintaining the look of our freeways, which often lead to a negative impression of our great city,” said Scenic Houston Board Member Emeritus Jonathan Day, special counsel for Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. “Scenic Houston led the effort to improve Broadway leading to Hobby Airport. We are now turning our attention toward enhancing the Pease Street entrance to downtown from I-45 and the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s downtown Hardy Street connection. Each project gets us closer to a more visually attractive Houston for residents and visitors alike.”

Numerous groups – Houston First, the Houston Restaurant Association, the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Houston, Houston Apartment Association, Houston Building Owners & Managers Association, Houston Real Estate Council, Institute of Real Estate Management Houston, Houston Commercial Real Estate Association, Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Houston Chapter, the East End District, the North Houston District, the Transportation Advocacy Group, the North Houston Association, the Hobby Area District, the East Aldine District and the East Downtown Management District – supported the changes.

“The end result is one that is endorsed by all of these organizations,” said Houston Real Estate Council member Philip Schneidau, president and CEO of Woodbranch Management, Inc. “They like the distinction between abandoned signs and signs not in use and feel very comfortable with what has been approved by City Council.”

Schneidau and Tommy Friedlander, also of HREC and a partner at RPI Holdings, Ltd., led the industry task force that worked side-by-side with Scenic Houston and the City to craft the ordinance changes.

The revisions do not have any impact on billboards and will not require businesses to remove or change any existing signage that does not currently conform.