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.


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.

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 Breaks Ground 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.

Acres Homes: New Home Development Program

Healthy, viable communities rely on strong interpersonal ties at the neighborhood level—and the preservation of affordable housing is crucial to this equation. With that in mind, we are excited to announce a partnership between buildingcommunityWORKSHOP and the City of Houston focused on creating affordable single family homes for sale using lots available from the Houston Land Bank.

Building off of our work with the Disaster Recovery Round 2 (DR2) program, [bc] is partnering with the City to design 18 new, single-family homes in the Acres Homes neighborhood. Through DR2, we had the opportunity to work with local designers in developing a Community Engagement process to set contextual and programmatic design preferences for the targeted neighborhoods and to produce informed schematic home designs, including floor plans and elevations. Taking into consideration lessons learned from our affordable housing projects and the recent changes to the floodplain ordinance in Houston, [bc] worked to adapt the designs to pier and beam foundation as well as to increase their spatial efficiencies. These home designs are based on the feedback received during the DR2 engagement process, individual design meetings with over 300 households, and our recent participation in the Acres Home neighborhood design charrette through the Complete Communities initiative.

A Unique Approach to Housing Affordability

By building on lots owned by the Houston Land Bank, this program establishes a long-term strategy for affordability in the Acres Homes neighborhood. The Houston Land Bank relies on the use of strategic relationships between developers, builders, community organizations, and other stakeholders to stimulate the revitalization of vacant, abandoned, and/or tax foreclosed properties.

Why New Home Development?

The City of Houston’s New Home Development Program concentrates on bringing infill homes built on vacant lots, adding options for healthy affordable housing that increase neighbor proximity and give more families the opportunity to become first-time homebuyers.

Building new homes increases a community’s physical assets, encouraging future development and investment. Furthermore, partnerships between home designers, builders, and community organizations engaged in community revitalization are strengthened when the affordable housing stock is developed.

Here’s the Master Plan for Acres Homes:

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Stay tuned for more updates on the Acres Homes development. We look forward to sharing more with you here on our website and in our newsletter!

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. 

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. 

Four Musicians Selected for El Sonido del Agua

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On June 13, 2018 the musician selection committee—comprised of community organizers, conjunto musician experts and designers—reviewed applications and held live auditions at the ARISE Support Center in Alamo, TX. The Support Center is just a few miles from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres, two colonias which are focus areas for the project.

Four musicians rose to the top of the list during this session and the committee thought that finding a way for the four of them to work together would foster the best possible outcomes for the project. Two of the musicians are from the colonias themselves (one each from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres). The other two live in the Rio Grande Valley and have experience working with colonias. This combination of local expertise and regional understanding of drainage and music should make for a lively experience!

We will announce the musicians at the July 11 and 12 songwriting workshops and community audits, to take place in the colonias. These events will kick off the next phase of the project. Musicians will lead corrido writing writing workshops, following walking community audits led by [bc]. The community audits are designed to support residents of the colonias in identifying, documenting, and reporting infrastructural issues that impact drainage and catalyze conversations about the challenges of daily living in a flood prone area. These audits and conversations will be a foundation for writing corridos (narrative ballads) about these conditions.

Additional workshops will be held this summer to refine the corridos and then produce conjuntos based on these stories. This effort to put the daily struggles that colonia residents face into song is at the heart of El Sonido del Agua.

 This project is supported by a grant from the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund.

buildingcommunityHEROES 4th Edition Released

[bc] is excited to share our 4th edition of buildingcommunityHEROES ([bc]HEROES) trading cards. This edition celebrates individuals across Dallas who are making strides in the areas of education, food access, community organizing, arts, bicycle advocacy, and community development. With a fresh new design, these cards are a fun way to learn about and celebrate local Dallas heroes.

Our 4th Edition Heroes include: Lucy Phelps Patterson, Daron Babcock, Kay Thompson, William Sidney Pittman, Yvonne Ewell, Taylor Toynes, Clarice Criss, Cora Cardona, Onjaleke Brown, Joli Robinson, Ronnie Mestas, Lily Weiss, Ben Leal, and Ashly Fields.

[bc]HEROES launched in 2014 in commemoration of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Dr. King challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play. [bc] honors that incredible legacy of service by recognizing local trailblazers, advocates, organizers, and leaders, who serve our communities.

Check out more at buildingcommunityheroes.org, read HERO bios, nominate your HERO for future trading cards, and explore our HEROES’ causes. If you would like your own pack of [bc]HEROES trading cards please contact give us a call or swing by the Dallas Office. Supplies are limited.