Welcome bcINTERN Ana Colon!

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Ana Colon is a bcINTERN at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. She is interested in how [bc] takes into consideration the social, economic, and environmental issues facing communities in need and its approach to community engagement.

Having lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods herself, she became interested in learning to help these communities through design. She did research with a team at her university on social justice issues in architecture in 2018. Later on that year, she helped make a panel on those topics to present at the American Institute of Architecture Students National Conference, Forum, to raise awareness.

Ana received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design, with a specialization in Architecture, at the University of Colorado.

Tangelo Quarters Opens Its Doors

We are excited to announce that 18 families have now moved into their new homes at Tangelo Quarters! This our most recent multifamily development in partnership with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville and the Housing Authority of Brownsville. All families living at Tangelo Quarters will enjoy a range of community amenities, such as a playground area, barbecue pavilions, and a community garden all connected by accessible routes strategically placed throughout the property.

The site is located in the Southmost area of Brownsville, a neighborhood that has historically had to deal with flooding issues due to inadequate infrastructure. With this context in mind, we designed native landscape and LID (low-impact development) infrastructure to help with drainage. As families get settled in and the vegetation starts to bloom, we expect Tangelo Quarters will set a precedent for approaching new healthy thriving communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Last month, the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville hosted a Ribbon Cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening. During the event, every family received the opportunity to cut the ribbon of their new home. There was also live music and food to celebrate the families and all the collaborators that made this project possible. It was a great event -- and we were happy to be in attendance to help welcome new residents home to Tangelo Quarters!

Scroll through the photos below to check out the site and see some of its residents.

Read our earlier post from Tangelo Quarters construction.


Disaster Recovery Guides Update

As we near the two year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, we can’t ignore the fact that families are continuing to recover and rebuild their lives from the devastation this storm wreaked -- and for many, the challenge is made more difficult due to a lack of accurate information available in the language they understand best.

By partnering with the Red Cross and local long-term recovery groups working on the ground in the Gulf Coast, we are helping to get legally-accurate, easy-to-understand information into the hands of those who need it most. We are midway through this project, through which we will produce four Disaster Recovery Guides translated into five languages to be distributed across Houston and Harris, Nueces, and Refugio counties. The Guides will cover four topic areas: flood insurance, renters’ rights, title clearing, and contractor fraud.

Recently, we formed a partnership that will broaden our reach even further. Thanks to a connection from our funder, we were able to begin work with another Red Cross grantee -- a group that believes that everyone should have equal access to information, communication and services that can impact their quality of life and their ability to be independent. No Barriers Communication, based in San Antonio, will translate our four written guides into videos accessible by American Sign Language.

The more people that have access to this important disaster recovery information, the better. We are so happy to work with No Barriers Communication to broaden our reach to include the hearing-impaired! Once the videos are complete, we will host them here on our website -- so please stay tuned for more from the Disaster Recovery Guides project.  

Funding for this project provided by:

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Welcome, Camille!

We are excited to welcome our new Analytics Associate, Camille Gilchriest, to the [bc] team! She is in charge of bcANALYTICS, our internal program for using data to drive informed decision-making. In this role, Camille uses her expertise to support a variety of projects through data visualization, data analysis, and mapping.

Camille graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Geographical Studies and her professional background is in community organizing. She believes data can be used as a tool to augment the efforts of historically disenfranchised people as they attempt to create more just outcomes in the distribution of resources.

Join us in welcoming Camille — and read her official bio here!

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Casitas Azucar: Construction to Begin in April!

Design Associate Luis Murillo works on Casitas Azucar in [bc]’s Brownsville office

Design Associate Luis Murillo works on Casitas Azucar in [bc]’s Brownsville office

We are excited to announce that in partnership with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) we have designed a new multifamily development in the city of Santa Rosa, TX, which will begin construction next month. The project consists of 50 detached single-family dwellings and also includes a community room, office, laundry room, playground area and barbecue pavilions as site amenities.

This large development, called Casitas Azucar, will significantly increase the share of affordable rental housing in Santa Rosa -- a rural community with just under 3,000 residents.

The design concept was driven by Santa Rosa’s rural environment and its historic, industrial buildings. Each unit type in the development follows a simple scheme which gave our design team the opportunity to focus on the creation and articulation of green space -- a key ingredient to healthy communities.

We increased green space per family through strategic placement of each unit and the use of modular arbor structures which were articulated to enhance the garden and patio space for each habitant. By treating every unit type uniquely to its location in the site, we were able to highlight green space and create a cohesive design that carries throughout the patio spaces. These strategies result in green spaces full of trees which are used as an extension of the family’s home, representing a continuation of each dwelling’s interior living space.

When families and individuals can spend time at home comfortably both indoors and outdoors, their quality of life stands to improve. Ultimately, our goal for Casitas Azucar is to increase the opportunity for community by addressing public and private green spaces -- to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy them how they wish. Stay tuned for more updates from this exciting development!


Community History Harvest at the Dallas West Branch Library

Residents of West Dallas are invited to join us on Saturday, April 27th at the Dallas West Branch Library from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm for a community history harvest. This will be the first event in our collaboration with the Dallas Public Library to further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program.

Folks from across the area are invited to share photos, documents, and oral histories about their community, to be recorded and digitized for the Dallas Public Library’s public collection. Participants will also receive digital copies of their photos and documents, preserving these important artifacts for future generations to learn from.

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In consideration of time, we ask that residents bring up to five artifacts to be digitized. Examples of items to bring include:

  • Family or school photos

  • Yearbooks

  • Menus from local restaurants

  • Property surveys or maps

  • Church programs

We are looking forward to learning from and with the residents of West Dallas’s neighborhoods about the local history and how their communities experienced change during the Civil Rights period and beyond. The topics to be explored include the role of city planning, development, and school desegregation with the ultimate goal of understanding how historic inequities have shaped the communities we see today. The collective neighborhood history gathered from the archival event, interviews with community members, and our research about the area will culminate in an exhibition at the Dallas West Branch Library.

[bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project. Stay tuned for future updates on the details of this digitization event.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.



Community Engagement Report Release

The CDRC and [bc] facilitate table discussions at Districts E Community Meeting. Photo: HCDD

The CDRC and [bc] facilitate table discussions at Districts E Community Meeting. Photo: HCDD

In response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Congress allocated $5.204 billion to the State of Texas for recovery efforts. In a departure from past recovery efforts, the City of Houston was given local control over $1.15 billion of these funds—and a short window of time in which to create the Local Action Plan, which outlines how federal funds will be used. The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) sought to increase the role of community engagement in informing their final Local Action Plan and Disaster Recovery Programs-- its their largest Engagement effort to date. buildingcommunityWORKSHOP was pleased to collaborate with HCDD, the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC), Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the UT Public Health Department to expand community engagement activities in the disaster recovery process.

Beginning in June 2018, HCDD reached out to local organizations to plan a series of meetings with different groups to understand their issues and expectations, receive recommendations about next steps, and identify potential partners. Then, local and community organizations were contacted to build partnerships for a community engagement process that would inform Houston’s Local Action Plan for the allocation of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds and understand the needs of communities prior and after Harvey.

Due to the rapid turnaround desired by the Mayor’s office, the Engagement process took place over the course of six weeks. [bc] and the CDRC worked together to craft a methodology, design interactive activities that would engage diverse communities, facilitate conversations, and build the department's capacity to facilitate and implement community engagement activities. [bc] and CDRC provided support to HCDD and other partner organizations by developing meeting materials, facilitator guides, and conducting facilitator training. See below the city wide meeting locations:

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The findings of the engagement process were clear. Houstonians voiced their desire for increased transparency and community participation in the recovery process. Improved drainage and long-term planning for future disasters—Harvey was the third disaster to strike Houston in 5 years—were also priorities.

The Community Engagement Report detailing the methodology was initially prepared as an internal report from [bc] to the HCD Department, but given the lessons learned and reflections included in the report, the City wished to turn it into a public guide for potential use by other cities looking to enhance their Engagement efforts. It was published online in November of 2018—to learn more, we invite you to read the Report in its entirety.

[bc] Receives Common Heritage Grant from the NEH

We are excited to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to partner with the Dallas Public Library for a new project which will further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program through events and exhibitions in the neighborhoods served by the Library’s Polk-Wisdom, Dallas West, and Martin Luther King Jr. Branches.

This collaboration builds off of several years of work by [bc] to collect and preserve Dallas’s local histories as they relate to changes in the physical and cultural form of the city. Through oral histories and physical artifacts like photos and documents, the project will document how these changes have had an impact on Dallas’s historic communities of color and how residents experienced cultural and demographic shifts in their neighborhoods during the Civil Rights period and beyond.

Topics to be explored include city planning, development, and school desegregation. Ultimately, [bc] hopes to advance a greater understanding of the way in which historical inequities have had a role in shaping the communities we see today. Given various efforts currently taking place across the city to better understand issues of racial equity and how future development may impact vulnerable communities, the project will leverage this momentum to engage Dallasites in a re-examination of local histories.

Project activities will begin in 2019. [bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project.

Stay tuned for future updates on the dates and locations of digitization events in these three locales.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Hurricane Harvey Disaster Recovery Guides

Image Credit Lafayette, TN, February 8, 2008. George Armstrong/FEMA Photo Library

Image Credit Lafayette, TN, February 8, 2008. George Armstrong/FEMA Photo Library

Since Hurricane Harvey, we have been working alongside our partners and residents of communities affected by the storm. Building off our work to empower community members with the knowledge to drive the future of their communities through projects like the Land Use Colonia Housing Action (LUCHA) and the Disaster Recovery Leadership Development program in partnership with the Texas Organizing Project, [bc] will produce a series of graphic Disaster Recovery Guides to aid residents of Harris, Aransas, Refugio, and Nueces Counties in accessing disaster recovery resources to aid them and their families in their recovery, in conjunction with the disbursement of federal funding allocated to these four counties. This project is supported by a generous grant from the American Red Cross.

We look forward to providing further updates on our progress to engage diverse community members throughout this process and to sharing the Disaster Recovery Guides, which will be available in 5 languages, via our website.

To learn more about how you or your organization can get involved with this project, please contact us at inform@bcworkshop.org

Funding for this project provided by:

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El Sonido del Agua

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We are excited to share that on Saturday, January 26, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]), La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and Texas Housers, with the support of UTHealth School of Public Health, UTRGV School of Medicine, and UTRGV-Cameron County will host a conjunto music celebration as part of the El Sonido del Agua project.

The celebration event will mark the live debut of six original songs that have been written through El Sonido del Agua—a multiyear initiative funded by the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund which aims to mobilize and equip residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s colonias to tackle public health issues that arise from inadequate infrastructure. The lyrics of the songs composed tell the story of what colonia residents experience—the day-to-day challenges of living in these substandard subdivisions, such as flooding and a lack of street lighting. Project partners and participants hope to utilize these songs to draw attention to inequities of place and build momentum for colonia residents’ organizing campaigns to win change for their communities.

At the event, the four musicians commissioned through the project, who have worked alongside residents over the past several months to craft lyrics, will play the corridos for a live audience. Project partner organizations will speak about the goals of the project and the suite of events that will be taking place over the next few months as part of the effort.


Welcome Matthew Young!

We are excited to welcome Matthew Young as a Design Associate, based in the Washington, D.C. office.

Originally from Roanoke, Virginia, Matthew has gained professional experience working with architects in Brooklyn, Seattle, and Washington, DC, with a majority of his work focused around housing. His projects ranged from 150-unit mixed-use buildings to carefully crafted single-family residences.

Matthew studied at Virginia Tech where he received a Bachelor of Architecture and was an Honors Scholar. While at Virginia Tech, he spent a semester studying abroad at the Steger Center in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland and was a participant in an inaugural two-week study abroad program to Japan.

Learn more about Matthew here.

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Welcome Kelsey Menzel!

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We are excited to welcome Kelsey Menzel as [bc]’s Development Manager, based in the Dallas office.

Kelsey previously worked as a copywriter for a local nonprofit development agency before moving abroad to teach English as a foreign language in Bogotá, Colombia. Here, Kelsey became interested in what makes a community thrive—which later led her to pursue a Master of Urban Management. During this time, Kelsey received substantial theoretical and hands-on training in urbanism and community development, including a summer at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she worked side-by-side with residents to evaluate key strengths and opportunities regarding public space in the vibrant neighborhood of Braamfontein. While completing her master’s thesis, Kelsey partnered with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville to research affordable housing approaches and how public policy can be enhanced to help the most vulnerable achieve their right to adequate housing.

Kelsey has a Bachelor of Arts in English from The University of Texas at Austin. She is anticipated to complete her Master of Science in Urban Management from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany in February of 2019.

Learn more about Kelsey here.

Welcome Diego Perez!

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We are excited to welcome Diego Perez!

Diego Perez is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. He collaborates on several projects in the Rio Grande Valley that help low-income people to have opportunities to create one of their dreams through the design and construction of affordable housing.

Diego studied at the University CESDAA (Higher Studies Center in Architecture and Administration) in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he earned a Bachelor of Architecture.

Learn more about Diego here!

Bridging the Block Wrap-Up

This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project set out to hear from Dallasites about some of the challenges they face when trying to use the sidewalks of Downtown Dallas. Through a series of design meetings and a tour, participants identified the biggest problems hindering mobility, and workshopped design solutions. The most pressing issues singled-out included broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the public.

[bc] and participants concluded that recognizing an issue can be the first step to solving it, and that people often don’t recognize something is a problem unless they have been personally impacted by it or know someone who has. This understanding framed the approach to the final installation: not only would the final product include a method to address the issues seen and discussed, it would also make it a point to highlight the issues and the various populations they alienate on a daily basis.

The final work is a kit of parts that together create different configurations of temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market - a stretch of sidewalk in such poor condition that it is extremely difficult to navigate. These “bridges” are mobile installations that raise awareness of accessibility issues in public space and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone. To accompany the bridges, [bc] built a series of signs featuring pictographs and text that explain the challenges the ramps address. As a whole, the installation uses color, texture, and modularity to create awareness about the breadth of mobility challenges and experiences in public space.

There will be another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16, 11:30 am - 2:00 pm.

The Bridging the Block project is supported by AARP and coincides with the #MarillaMakeover Project currently being led by Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas’ Planning and Urban Design Department.


 

Expanding RAPIDO for Gulf Coast Recovery

We are excited to report on our progress in bringing the RAPIDO model of temporary-to-permanent housing to families affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

On July 26, the first RAPIDO Core unit in Houston opened its doors to visitors and stakeholders. Also in attendance was the family who will call the Core home. On September 20, the family moved into the first RAPIDO Core in the city of Houston, TX. The family will remain there throughout construction of the Expansion, transforming the temporary Core unit into a permanent three-bedroom home. Construction on the expansion began in October.

Our efforts have also included design for RAPIDO Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can act as temporary housing during the home repair process, and then provide a source of extra income as a rental unit after reconstruction.

The design and partnership work with Covenant Community Capital and Texas Housers to realize RAPIDO units in Houston was supported by funding partnership with Enterprise Community Partners.

We are excited to announce that we are working to design and build 15 RAPIDO Core Units in Gulf Coast communities through a new grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund. Through this grant, we are also conducting research and development for mass production of RAPIDO Cores. This will serve 15 additional families affected by the storm, while also advancing progress toward the mass production of RAPIDO Cores.