Dickinson, Texas embraces masonry
The Overlay District specifies brick and tinted concrete block as primary exterior materials
By Rudy Garza
The Dickinson (Texas) City Council has approved a State Highway 3 zoning overlay district that requires masonry exteriors throughout. State Highway 3 is one of the main north/south arteries within the Dickinson (pop. 18,680) city limits and, often, is referred to as Old Galveston Road, indicating its historic role of linking Houston and Galveston. Most of that traffic now uses IH-45, which runs roughly parallel to State Highway 3.
Dickinson officials envision a new pedestrian-oriented main street developing along and around State Highway 3. The city’s new brick and masonry City Hall and library are seen as the anchors for new development in the district. The Overlay District was approved by the City Council on July 24, and took effect on July 28, 2012. The district encompasses 275 square city blocks. The city’s official description of the Overlay District states:
“The purpose of the State Highway 3 Overlay District (“District”) is to support the creation of an area similar in look and feel to the late-19th and early-20th century historic main streets. It is not the intention of this District to duplicate history, only capture the essence of historical character and use. The architectural features are designed to support the desired type of construction. The District is intended to encourage special attention to architectural details such as building materials, colors, facades, windows, doors, roof lines, parapet design, and other elements used as references or inspiration in creating historical detailing for a building. The District seeks to transition the area from a vehicle-oriented environment to a pedestrian-oriented environment – creating a safe, walkable community. This purpose is achieved by providing regulation both in addition to and, in some cases, in place of, the existing base zoning within the State Highway 3 Overlay District.”The Overlay District specifies brick and tinted concrete block as primary exterior materials throughout the district, and requires 100 percent brick or other masonry in the most visible areas of the district.
Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters says, “The development of the State Highway 3 Overlay District has been a collaboration of the Planning and Zoning Commission, City Council, and Dickinson Economic Development Corporation over the last year and a half, and it is the first Overlay District ever created in Dickinson. The Overlay District provides a guide for future redevelopment along Highway 3 that will, ultimately, create a pedestrian-oriented main street for Dickinson that takes it back to its vibrant past.”
The overlay district masonry requirements are similar to the requirements in Galveston’s “Design Standard for Historic Properties,” adopted earlier this year, which specifies brick as the primary exterior building material within the business historic districts throughout the city, according to Meg Belmontes, community planner with the Texas Masonry Council.
“Many historic Texas towns were shaped by local ordinances passed in the late-1800s requiring masonry on the exterior of buildings in their downtown areas,” Belmontes says. “These policies likely were a response to fires like the one in Galveston in 1885, which consumed 42 blocks and 562 buildings, before burning itself out. Initially constructed of wood and siding, most of the buildings were replaced after the fire with masonry construction. It’s not surprising that many buildings constructed under these policies are still standing and in use today – more than a century later.”
Research has shown that masonry requirements result in higher overall property values; growth in the tax base, lessening the tax burden on residents; continued population and housing growth, and no significant impact on affordability for either renters or buyers of housing.
About the Author
Rudy Garza is the Executive Vice President of the Texas Masonry Council.