Managing partners and siblings Bryan Hutson and Teresa Latsis said The Hutson Group is adding sidewalks on Houston Street with plans for other walkability improvements to accompany building renovations from North Elm to Walnut streets.
“There’s been a lot of focus on Market Street because it was new and pretty but looked old, and it was new businesses,” Latsis said. “There’s sort of this divide—there’s the south side, and there’s the north side. ... To bring its due attention to both sides ... I think it will be really lovely for the north side to have this ... coherence of walkability as we move forward.”
Tomball City Council approved a Tomball Economic Development Corp. grant for The Hutson Group on March 15 of up to $48,800 for the construction of pedestrian and parking improvements along Houston and North Elm streets, according to city information. The grant totals up to 50% of the project costs, according to TEDC information.
“General walkability is the goal and also the draw of businesses for the walkability,” Latsis said.
The three-phase project includes adding sidewalks at the corner of North Elm and Houston streets in Phase 1—which is complete—adding sidewalks along the south side of Houston Street westward to Walnut Street in Phase 2 and adding sidewalks along the north side of Houston Street from North Elm to Walnut streets in Phase 3, Latsis said. The project is estimated to cost $97,600 and wrap up in late 2021 or early 2022, Hutson said.
He said his family owns all of the property on the north and south sides of Houston Street between North Elm and Walnut streets as well as property on Commerce Street and elsewhere in Old Town, which allows for continuity along Houston Street and potential connectivity with Commerce Street. He said he hopes to upgrade an existing driveway near Thirsty Bee Meadery on Commerce Street to a walking path connecting to Houston Street.
In addition to lining the new sidewalks with the Hutsons’ signature brick pavers, Hutson said he plans to add street lamps—identical to the lamps on Market Street—and benches. However, improvements beyond installing sidewalks are not included in the TEDC grant, Hutson clarified.
"Each development or group of buildings that we work on, we sort of have this idea of the look and feel, the vibe that we want to create in that development. The 300 Market Street development ... the idea was a turn-of-the-century, sort of 1900s, old downtown [buildings],” Hutson said. “[Houston Street] is more of a nature oriented, nature themed. ... The walkways we have over on the Houston Street side meander a little bit; they’re curvy; they wander to give more of an organic feel.”
Hutson said this fits with the block’s 100-year-old oak trees and existing tenants, which include Callie’s Kitchen, Wild Spirit Yoga, and Gina’s Massage and Bodywork.
Latsis said while several buildings on Houston Street still have renovations to be done, the vision includes cafes or eateries on the four corners at Houston, North Elm and Walnut streets. Renovations are ongoing at the former Jane & John Dough Bakery at 208 N. Elm St., which will hopefully be another bakery or cafe, Hutson said.
“On the four corners of these blocks, we try to put in cafes or small restaurants, and then we’ll fill in the middle in between them with retail spaces or quasi retail,” Hutson said. “Generally, the corner lots are larger ... and make them more accommodating with outdoor and indoor space.”