Galvestion: ANICO, City Reach Consensus on 20th Street Plaza, Pedestrian Bridge and Korean War Monument
Feature Illustration (above): ANICO proposes to build a second-level pedestrian bridge from a parking garage to the main entrance of its office tower. Courtesy: Diamond Development+Construction Group.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Galveston (Galveston County)–ANICO and their architect have reached a tentative agreement with City Council on how to proceed with improvements between the insurance company’s headquarters tower and a future parking garage going up across 20th Street.
As reported by VBX July 3, the American National Insurance Company (ANICO) attempted to get approval from the Planning Commission during a May public hearing for construction of an elevated plaza between the new garage and the office tower.
ANICO wanted the plaza elevated to resolve a perennial problem of employers and visitors having to wade through floodwater every time it rained on this flood-prone city block. ANICO engineers designed an underground detention system they claimed would alleviate flooding, but neighboring property owners did not trust their claims and convinced the commissioners to reject the concept.
In response, ANICO revisited an earlier concept that requires constructing a 2nd story pedestrian bridge from the garage to the office tower. The Planning Commission unanimously passed that version earlier this summer, and during an Aug. 22 workshop of City Council, the council members gave ANICO representatives assurances they would go along with the proposal.
Overhead view of the pedestrian bridge connecting the new parking garage to the ANICO tower. Courtesy: Diamond Development+Construction Group.
During the workshop, staff said they would bring the project to council as an action item at their Sept 12 regular meeting. It did not appear, however, on yesterday’s agenda and City Council action is still pending.
In addition to the pedestrian bridge, a new plaza will still be constructed, but it will not be elevated. There is an existing ribbon style parklet that also functions as a raised median in the middle of 20th Street that will be remodeled and become part of the plaza.
Council action is necessary for the granting of a License to Use (LTU) for a portion of 20th Street right-of-way, permanently, between Mechanic/Avenue C and Market/Avenue D. This is for improvements over both the street and sidewalk areas (0.45 acres). The project would replace pavement for pavers at street level, additional green space along the west side of 20th and relocation of the public sidewalk.
A 3rd story perspective of the ANICO Plaza and pedestrian bridge across 20th Street.
Some of the median would have a series of terraces intended to provide historical context to the original city hall location. During the 1830s, an outdoor market operated where the current grassy median is located. In 1846, a 260-foot long structure was built in the center to serve as a produce market and city hall.
The existing street lanes and trolley lane would remain open.
Korean War Monument:
An amenity that will be featured in ANICO Plaza is a monument to honor service men from Galveston County that were killed in action during the Korean War. A spokesman with the ANICO group told council there are two benches on Broadway that were installed in 1955 to honor the KIA of the Korean conflict, but it is in poor condition and has only 42 names of the KIA. There are 51 known soldiers from the area that died in Korea.
The concept is for a stone monument to be placed on the southwest end of the plaza at one corner of the parking garage. It’s specific design, however, is still in discussion.
(Above) Concept view of the plaza with a Korean War monument (lower left) located in the southwest corner. (Below) A view of the existing site from a similar perspective.
The process also allows for construction of a relocated public walkway with appropriate landscaping infrastructure within the west 25 feet of right-of -way at no cost to the taxpayers of the City of Galveston. It fulfills important goals of the Historic Downtown Masterplan as noted above, especially in conjunction with the proposed parking structure. It is consistent with and supportive of the redevelopment efforts being planned for nearby building reuse and rehabilitation. It provides badly needed parking and access to regional transit facilities. It provides for the potential reuse of other surface parking areas.
City staff’s recommendation came with the following conditions:
A. The elevated pedestrian bridge is subject to the following criteria:
Lowest horizontal component shall be constructed to an elevation of not less than seventeen feet above the existing grade of the trolley tracks and the roadway lanes.
Plans shall generally conform to the design schematic included in this report.
Construction plans shallbe engineered to standards required for commercial wind-load construction and shall be submitted for and successfully receive a city permit.
Because the LTU term is renewable through the life of the structure, a structural engineering assessment shall be required to be submitted by the applicant within 60 days of a weather related, declared city emergency wherein wind speed reached 110 mph or greater within the City of Galveston.
Installation shall be at the cost of the applicant and maintenance shall be by the applicant throughout the term of the LTU.
The applicants design shall ensure no bridge supports columns on or over any public/private utilities and services determined to be present, including but not limited to:
6-inch waterline,o10-inch waterline,
12-inch sanitary sewer,o15-inch storm sewer,
30-inch storm sewer,
Vehicular access for the Fire Department
Access for the trolley
B. The grade-level decorative pavement, landscaping and the historic footprint terraces are subject to the following criteria:
The applicant shall agree that all constructed grade-level improvements within the right of way will be open to the public.
Construction shall be prohibited in trolley footprint area.
Open vehicular access on roadway travel lanes and trolley track shall persist for general traffic, emergency vehicles, and trolley system facilities
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.