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

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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.

El Sonido del Agua Workshops

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Alongside our partners La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and four selected musicians (Frutoso Villareal, Jonathan Salinas, Refugio Ortiz, and Juan Manuel Alejo) we have recently wrapped up a series of three songwriting workshops in the Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres colonias.

In July, a workshop was held at each colonia where musicians, residents, and partner organizations came together to write corrido verses following discussions about daily life and the impact of flooding in the colonias. The workshops began a walk around the neighborhood and a Colonia Audit of Public Spaces (CAPS), where the residents recorded the physical conditions and their thoughts on spaces in the community focusing on areas related to drainage, flooding and safety. Musicians participated in the audit as well to hear about challenges and success stories within the colonias. After walking the neighborhood, the musicians performed some of their music and spoke about the corrido process and the musical elements that make a compelling corrido. Residents discussed the music performed and then began to write their own stories as corrido verses.

The second round of workshops took place in early September. During these workshops, groups worked collaboratively to write corrido lyrics, and residents shared out their writings. Musicians led conversations to explore the format of the song to be produced. At the end of September, residents, musicians, and partners re-convened to weave the writings produced through the second workshop into cohesive songs that represent the struggles of each colonia.

We are looking forward to continuing work with our partners, residents, and musicians to record the songs produced through these workshops and plan a dance celebration in the new year. Stay tuned for updates!

El Sonido del Agua is a multi-year creative placemaking project that supports the expression of local voice through music, and is supported by ArtPlace America.

Smart Growth for Dallas Decision Support Tool Launched!

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We are excited to announce the launch of the Smart Growth for Dallas Interactive Decision Support Tool, produced in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, and the Texas Trees Foundation.

The Decision Support Tool can help stakeholders working across various sectors identify the areas of our city where investments in green infrastructure can have the greatest possible impact.

The Decision Support Tool has been released in conjunction with a User Guide, descriptions of the data sources used in this analysis, and PDFs of the Smart Growth for Dallas priority maps (Absorb and Protect, Connect, Cool, Equity, and Health). The site also features a Story Map, through which you can learn more about the project and the analysis results.

Visit this link to explore the full site!

Bridging the Block

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This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project will be installing temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market. These “bridges” will be a group of mobile installations that aim to raise awareness of accessibility issues in public spaces and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone.

We have held several community design meetings to hear from people about their experiences as a pedestrian in downtown Dallas and the ways they would approach addressing the issues at hand. The meetings set out to identify accessibility issues and have conversations about who would be impacted by these limitations. We learned from participants about the challenges of broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the paths.

The conversations touched on whether minimum accessibility requirements were sufficient in addressing the needs of all. One issue identified was the challenge of navigating textured pavers found at crosswalks with a walker. Another topic of concern was safety and the small but important design decisions that could address this concern—from street lights to reflective materials that would indicate the presence of a pedestrian to oncoming traffic.

The Opening Day Lunch and Conversation will be on Friday, Nov. 2, 12:00 to 1:30 pm. You will have another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover project Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16.

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

 

Welcome Valeria!

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We are excited to welcome Valeria Landeros!

Valeria Landeros is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. Valeria collaborates on a range of architectural and community projects in the Rio Grande Valley.

Valeria studied at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Architecture.

Learn more about Valeria here!


DC Public Library Fab Lab Pop-Up at NoMa Now Open

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Read more about the Fab Lab here.

[bc] believes in the public library's critical role as a hub for democracy. We are excited to support the DC Public Library in extending services into neighborhoods, expanding services to facilitate the work of makers, and fostering community spaces for individuals to utilize their hands and access the tools to shape the future of their cities. 

In June, the DC Public Library NoMa fabrication lab ("fab lab") pop-up officially opened! The completion of this shipping container-turned-makerspace, which houses maker equipment and easily adjustable work stations, was celebrated with an opening event on June 17, attended by the project partners.

Attendees were free to roam around the courtyard and inside the container, and to enjoy the interior craftsmanship of custom-designed maker walls and furniture and the mural on all sides of the containers. Even the tops of the containers were painted, viewable from the surrounding tall buildings.

Following the tour and open house, Executive Director of the DC Public Library, Richard Reyes-Gavilan gave a closing thank you to all partners. Reyes-Gavilan spoke about the programming and new perspective public libraries can offer, noting, "Libraries are more than just books."

The Public Library has already started hosting free DIY classes and workshops. You can learn more about upcoming events at the Fab Lab Pop-Up at NOMA on the DC Public Library website here. More information about the Fab Lab and Pop-Up can be found here. 

Thanks to all of our partners and volunteers who assisted with this project!

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Construction Underway on Tangelo Quarters

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Tangelo Quarters, a housing development comprised of 18 single-family units, is currently under construction. Framing for the first five units has begun, and foundations for four others have been poured. 

When complete, Tangelo Quarters will provide affordable, contextually-appropriate housing for 18 families in Brownsville, TX. The site will feature a range of community amenities, such as a community garden, for residents to enjoy together. The project meets density goals while preserving individual identities of homes and fitting in with the existing neighborhood. 

We look forward to continuing work with our partners on this project, the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) and the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville (HACB) and to seeing the project's completion in 2019. 

New Home Development Program in Acres Homes

On September 4, the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department broke ground on 8 homes in the Acres Homes neighborhood that were designed by [bc] as part of the New Home Development Program. Drawing from the engagement done as a part of the City of Houston's Disaster Recovery Round 2, the designs were updated to improve resiliency and accessibility. [bc] staff were in attendance for the event, in addition to Mayor Sylvester Turner and representatives from HCDD.

Check out our photos from the event below!

Macon Starks Update

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The Macon Starks project is a housing development at the intersection of Macon and Starks Streets in the Bonton neighborhood. This housing project, which began a couple years ago, was met with a few delays along the way, but we are pleased to announce that the five senior housing units have been built and all are currently occupied. This project is a partnership between East Dallas Community Organization and [bc].

The units are a mix of duplex and single family dwellings centered around a communal garden space with raised planter beds. We look forward to advancing our design practice through different housing typologies serving the various populations of our cities.

Harold Simmons Park Public Workshops

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[bc] is serving as a consultant to the Trinity Park Conservancy, bringing our skill set in public interest design to engage Dallas' communities around the future of Harold Simmons Park, 200 acres along the Trinity River. Engagement efforts will focus on discovering how Dallas residents currently use parks and public space while encouraging them to re-imagine what this area could be. This understanding will inform the design of the 200 acre Harold Simmons Park.

Join us as we support the Trinity Park Conservancy in envisioning the future of the Harold Simmons Park as a public space that connects Dallas residents to each other and nature. Starting September 15th, the Conservancy will host 10 public workshops across the city to reimagine our river. For more about Harold Simmons Park, click here. Click here to RSVP to the upcoming workshops.

Welcome Kevin!

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We are excited to welcome Kevin Clapp!

Kevin Clapp is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOPKevin supports various Making and People Organizing Place (POP) projects.

Kevin holds a Master of Architecture and a Bachelor of Science in Urban & Regional Planning from Texas A&M University.

Learn more about Kevin here. 

Welcome Christine!

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We are excited to welcome Christine Nguyen!

Christine Nguyen is a Design Associate at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. She works on disaster recovery and other projects in and around the Houston area. 

Christine graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor or Arts in Architecture and a minor in Energy and Sustainability.

Learn more about Christine here. 

Rapido CORE Accessory Dwelling Unit

We have developed a series of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), exploring different outdoor design layouts that allow for adaptation and flexibility of placement in multiple lot configurations. All of our ADU designs utilize [bc]'s RAPIDO CORE, a disaster recovery housing modular unit, designed for durable and fast rehousing post disaster.  Check out more information about this initiative and the details for each ADU design option at [bc]'s People's Design Library.

There are many reasons a property owner would want to invest in a RAPIDO ADU: disaster preparedness, temporary housing during repairs or reconstruction, increase affordable units in the city and provide extra income to homeowners.  

These structures can be built quickly using standard materials and construction methods and are designed on raised platforms in order to avoid damage from flooding. A RAPIDO ADU can also be used as a safe house during a storm, especially if your home sustains serious damage. Because RAPIDO COREs can be built quickly,  the ADU can act as temporary housing and allow homeowners whose houses are in need of repairs to remain on their property while their home is repaired or rebuilt. ADUs are also often rented out to individuals, and this extra structure can give the homeowner an extra source of income once they have returned to their repaired home. 

Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum Update

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As we gear up for the final two Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum conversations on Parks and Public Space for People of All Abilities (August 9th) and Designing for Equity in Parks and Public Space (September 6th), we have been reflecting on the thoughtful conversations we’ve had had so far.

In our first panel discussion in May, moderated by Dr. Ivonne Audirac of the University of Texas at Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA), we had a compelling conversation about the issues of urban development and the impact of public space design on neighborhood vitality. Our panelists Aaron Abelson of HR&A Advisors, Brianna Brown of Texas Organizing Project, and Brent Brown of the Trinity Park Conservancy joined us at Better Block to talk about how public space design can contribute to the perpetuation of neighborhood disinvestment or be a catalyst for new development and neighborhood desirability. You can listen to the conversation online.

The second panel discussion in June was moderated by Alfreda Norman, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where we discussed the issues of race and ethnicity in public space design. Our panelists Bobby Abtahi, President of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, Isaac Cohen, a Landscape Architect at Studio Outside, Delia Jasso, former District 1 Council Member, and Yui Iwase, New Roots Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee joined us at the Dallas Black Dance Theater to talk about how a city with a long history of segregation might approach current and future public space design in a way that supports equity and access to public space for all of its residents. You can learn about the history of Dallas’ public parks and residential racial segregation within the city in [bc]’s Race and Control of Public Parks and listen to the panel conversation online.

Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming focus forums!

Smart Growth for Dallas, an initiative led by the Trust for Public Land, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, and Texas Trees Foundation, seeks to combine community insight and science to promote quality public spaces and green infrastructure in Dallas. To unpack the issues highlighted during our community engagement process, Smart Growth for Dallas will be hosting a series of 'Focus Forums' to explore the challenging topics of race and ethnicity, urban development, and accessibility within our public space design. The closing discussion will seek to knit together the prior conversation by exploring the specific role of design in bringing equity to public spaces. Through these conversations we hope to uncover forward-thinking ideas about planning and public space design in Dallas by bringing together groups whose work directly relates to each theme.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP Launches Freedmen’s Town Storytelling Project

Residents of North Texas Freedmen’s Towns will Document Community Histories

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) has been awarded a National Parks Service African American Civil Rights Grant to launch a new project focused on North Texas Freedmen’s Towns. The “Freedmen’s Towns Stories” project aims to support residents of Dallas’s historic Freedmen’s Towns and their descendants in telling the stories of the changes their communities faced during the Civil Rights Period through oral history, cross-generational interpretive storytelling, and text-based multimedia products.

[bc] has partnered with noted architectural historian Dr. Kathryn Holliday, Founding Director of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Dillon Center for Architecture, along with UTA College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs students, and the Writer’s Garret, the first nonprofit literary center in North Texas, which has connected over 2 million writers, readers, and audience members over the past 23 years, to build local capacity through this endeavor. Over the course of the project, [bc] and its partners will train and provide support to residents in conducting historical research, navigating archives, historic storytelling in written and oral formats, and recordings oral histories.

“Since 2012, [bc] has worked with residents of the Tenth Street Historic District—a historic former Freedmen’s Town—to assist residents preserving and celebrating their community’s rich history. With this grant, we will further advance this important work, engaging communities and residents across the region,” says Thor Erickson, President & Managing Director of [bc].

As a community design center with expertise in translating technical information into an accessible graphic format, [bc] will create manuals that will aid additional urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns in the task of historic storytelling. These resources, as well as the oral histories and written stories collected through the project, will be hosted in a new online repository, which will be built over the course of the project period. This website will establish a new online presence for urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns’ collaborative efforts.

The project’s launch coincides with a timely need. As construction continues on the Southern Gateway project, which will bring a multimillion dollar deck park to the neighborhood, Dallas’s Tenth Street Historic District faces imminent redevelopment pressures.

Several historic structures recently received demolition orders as residents have witnessed steadily increasing outside interest in neighborhood real estate. These events have catalyzed a number of local conversations about historic preservation, equity, and their intersection.

Freedmen’s Towns Stories will build resident capacity to preserve the local histories of these oft-overlooked communities. By training residents to undertake these efforts, the project will further equip the many residents who are dedicated to this endeavor.

Disclaimer:

Partially funded by the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the view of the Department of the Interior.

About [bc]:

The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work. (www.bcworkshop.org)

sustainABLEhouse Model Home in Corpus Under Construction

Learn more about sAh Corpus Christi here!

[bc] and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) have partnered to bring the sustainABLEhouse model of single-family affordable housing development to the city of Corpus Christi in order to provide housing choice to residents of the Hillcrest and Washington Coles neighborhoods who have been impacted by the Harbor Bridge reconstruction project and offered to participate in a voluntary relocation program managed by the Port Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Construction is now underway on a model home at 2517 Persimmon St. The model home will provide a tangible example for Corpus Christi residents of the quality of sustainABLEhouse homes, demonstrating the possibilities of custom-designed affordable housing. sustainABLEhouse works to combat the stigma around affordable housing, proving that affordability does not have to mean a lack of choice or quality, as it often does for many. The model home will show families how they can customize their design to achieve the kind of home that they want, or even model a new home on their previous one.  sustainABLEhouse will provide residents with homes that meet their preferences and are durable and efficient. 

We are excited to bring sustainABLEhouse to this new geography and to serve residents of Corpus Christi with customized affordable homes that suit their needs and their budgets. 

Welcome Ucha!

We are excited to welcome Ucha Abbah, our Dallas bcINTERN this summer!

From Dallas, Texas, Ucha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights and Environmental Studies from Southern Methodist University and is in the process of completing a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia. You can read more about Ucha here.

Thus far, Ucha has worked to research Freedmen's Towns in Dallas and how urban development has impacted them to support future storytelling work.

Ucha says, "My experience so far has been great, I have gotten to see completed projects while learning about the processes that lead to the completion of the projects that [bc] works on. I have enjoyed getting to know the different personalities here and how they come together to make the office unique and fun."

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Welcome Alison!

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We are excited to welcome Alison Katz, our Houston bcINTERN this summer!

Alison is from Saratoga Springs, NY and currently pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University as part of the class of 2020. You can read more about Alison here

Alison has been supporting our RAPIDO work in Houston. This summer, she will be working on marketing for upcoming projects, as well as assisting with community meetings that are happening here in Houston regarding the local needs and priorities for recovery since Harvey.

Alison says, "So far, my experience at [bc] has been really eye opening. Houston is a new city to me, and talking to people who have lost everything because of Harvey has been really impactful. In a short amount of time I have learned a lot about the way policy has specifically affected the way the city has recovered (or not) from the hurricane, and the ways community centers are advocating for people in need."