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!

POP Neighborhood Map Update - Modifications to Existing Boundaries!

Based on input we received via the interactive neighborhood boundary drawing tool Draw Your Neighborhood[bc] has been considering making some changes to the boundaries of a few neighborhoods - ParkdaleLake Park EstatesL StreetsMerriman Park/University Manor, and Lake Cliff - already on the POP Neighborhood Map

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[bc] and Downtown Dallas 360

Over the past two months, [bc] has participated in six public events for Downtown Dallas 360, the recently revisited master planning process undertaken by the member-based Downtown advocacy organization Downtown Dallas, Inc (DDI) and its project partners. [bc] is among those partners, teaming up with DDI to incorporate Draw Your Neighborhood into the 360 engagement process. 

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The History of the POP Neighborhood Map

[bc] has always aspired to impact neighborhoods across the state by using design to build capacity and empower communities. In Dallas[bc] reasoned that in order to support neighborhoods through our work, we first needed to know what and where the neighborhoods of Dallas were, launching what was then known as the Dallas Neighborhoods Project.

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Introducing the POP Neighborhood Map blog!

The POP Neighborhood Map Blog is a new digital platform that will chronicle the evolution of the POP Neighborhood Map and expounds why neighborhoods matter.  The launch of this blog coincides with the  launch of two new interactive digital tools - Know Your Neighborhood and Draw Your Neighborhood - the most recent effort of our ongoing POP Neighborhood Map project. 

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Community Organizers in Disasters

Learn more about RAPIDO and our other sustainABLEhouse projects.

Community organizers from LUPE and ARISE  in Hidalgo County and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville in Cameron and Willacy Counties have proved to be a great asset for post-disaster response in vulnerable areas - especially where trust and social ties are already in place. During the outreach period of the RAPIDO pilot, the Outreach team became more than just a point of contact for the program.  Navigators demonstrate that activities such as case management and social services are essential in the recovery process for families. The Navigators were the face of the program during the application period, providing confidence and support through the process.

As part of the policy development for RAPIDO the Policy team will soon deliver three  main documents: a program comparison report; a technical guide; and policy recommendations. Key outcomes will include understanding and documenting statutes and regulations that affect in the implementation of RAPIDO at the local, state and national government levels. The Policy team is led by Shannon Van Zandt and the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University. The Outreach, Eligibility and Design and Construction teams communicate project progress and challenges regularly to the Policy team in order to identify major policy changes needed in order to implement the RAPIDO plan.

Take a Book, Leave a Book

This is the first post in a series about the Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres project.

Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres is a literacy and community design initiative in Dallas, TX that pairs neighborhood residents and organizations with local designers to build small book shelters, creating new gathering spaces that promote literacy and community building. Part of the Little Free Library movement, started by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, this project promotes community ownership, encourages frequent use, and ensures the longevity of each library, improving the built environment alongside literacy in urban areas.

The project was initiated as a collaboration between bcWORKSHOP, Big Thought, and the Dallas Public Library. Between now and May 2014, designers will be paired with neighborhood stewards to build up to 20 Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods in the Lincoln and Madison (South Dallas/Fair Park) and Pinkston (West Dallas) high school feeder patterns. Using a $100 budget, community members will work with volunteer designers and artists to design and build the libraries. Free books will be supplied to stock the libraries, which are located in public places chosen by community members.

Learn more at

Low Impact Development

Learn more about our Colonias LID project.

The Colonia Stormwater Low Impact Development & Open Space project seeks to provide sustainable drainage infrastructure and open space strategies to Colonias in need. By layering drainage and open space we can create spaces that not only address the problem of flooding, but also provide spaces for gathering and enjoyment. The project addresses the problem of flooding through education, political and community engagement,and design. It seeks to educate Colonia residents and government officials about drainage challenges and the opportunities to improve stormwater infrastructure at the Colonias through Low Impact Development strategies. 

Five stormwater management and open space plans are in development. These can be used by Colonia residents as a tool for advocating change, and by County Officials as a community informed designs for future drainage projects in the Colonias. 

RGV Transportation

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

The RGV Transportation project aims to raise awareness about multi-modal transportation system in Brownsville, Texas and grow it into rural and colonia areas of the Rio Grande Valley. Because of the lack of knowledge in low income neighborhoods about the system, it is currently underutilized. This, in turn, creates a perceived lack of need and demand; limiting the amount of funding available via federal and state agencies and the amount that local policymakers are willing to invest towards additional infrastructure and regional growth. The maps show existing and proposed transportation networks at the regional and cities' of Brownsville and McAllen scale:

RGV Transportation is a collaborative project with Bike Texas, the City of BrownsvilleCDC Brownsville, and the Ford Foundation.

New RGV University

Read more about UTRGV.

On June 14, 2013 the 83rd Texas Legislature approved the creation of a new University of Texas and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. The new university, UT Rio Grande Valley, will be a single institution that spans the entire region with facilities in each of the major metropolitan areas of Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen, and McAllen. The new university will combine the resources of the University of Texas Pan American (UTPA), the University of Brownsville (UTB), and the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Regional Academic Health Center School of Public Health (RAHC).  In November, 2013 UT-RGV received $196 million from the Permanent University Fund to establish the new institution.

The creation of UT-RGV is a historic moment for the Rio Grande Valley, offering an unprecedented opportunity for regional impact and unification. UT-RGV is expected to serve as a model of educational excellence, transforming the social, physical, and economic prosperity of the Valley. For communities, particularly those of low-income, plans for the new university hold the promise of a powerful ally in positive change. For the new university, active engagement in local context assures its relevance as a competitive leader in first class higher education.

In an effort to leverage the reciprocal relationship of university and community, bcWORKSHOP partnered with the University of Texas System, the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), Public Architecture, U3 Ventures, Educate Texas, and LRGV organizing groups LUPE, ARISE, and START to ensure that the principles and practices of engagement are embedded in the fabric of the new institution and that the low-income community is an active participant in the planning process.

On November 8, 2013, the team co-hosted a day-long Forum on Community Engagement in Weslaco, Texas. Together with over 100 participants, community leaders, students, local experts, national advisors, and UT system staff contributed to more than 500 hours of collective brainpower - discussing and envisioning ways in which to transform the Rio Grande Valley. In preparation for the Forum, local organizing groups conducted surveys, workshops, and focus groups where community members identified priority action items in relation to health, education, economic development, and regional planning. The Forum built upon these priorities and best practice knowledge to develop a community agenda that promotes innovative strategies for university and regional growth.  The Forum was a successful first step in establishing community-university partnership and identifying potential principles and practices of the new engaged university.

Ideas generated at the Forum will be packaged by bcWORKSHOP and shared back to the community, UT System, and UT-RGV planners.  Community and university planning and partnership will continue through 2014.

RGV Affordable Housing

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

A family's income defines its available choices in housing. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, very low-income families have little to no choice available to them. The predominant type of very low-income housing is substandard, isolated from public institutions, and often negatively impacted by stormwater. These isolated communities do not fall within municipalities, and it is up to the counties to adopt Subdivision Regulations that may require a minimum quality of housing development. Counties currently spend their planning capital on bringing public infrastructure to new and existing neighborhoods located in such isolation. This causes counties to continuously search for outside funding to address these critical issues.

bcWORKSHOP Planning Associate Justin Tirsun has been leading an effort to catalogue all existing Federal, State of Texas, Hidalgo County, Cameron County, and local plans that address critical issues in substandard developments both directly or indirectly in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The recommendations put forth in these plans are categorized by issue, and analyzed on the following criteria:

  1. Do the recommendations act in contradiction to or work in support of existing plans?
  2. Is there the potential for alignment between planning goals and measures of success between multiple agencies?
  3. Is the issue one that would have been rectified if zoning required the subdivision in an non-isolated region of the county?

The resulting catalogue is organized by the issues that have been identified by the state, counties, cities and local organizations that contribute to the cost of affordable housing:

  • Available Quality Housing
  • Poor Development Patterns
  • Access to Potable Water
  • Access to Sufficient Sewer Infrastructure
  • Adequate Drainage and Stormwater Management
  • Access to Transit
  • Access to Healthcare Institutions
  • Access to Education
  • Access to Jobs

The catalogued planning efforts affect a population of more than 100,000 residents in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. The catalogue will serve as a regional resource providing LRGV agencies and the public a single library of all plans that affect quality of life issues. It will be a single source for policy implementation addressing critical issues of housing, and how collaboration should occur between agencies when working on affordable housing choices. Finally, it will address an argument that providing the counties with zoning capacities will alleviate much of the same quality of life issues in future county development.

The catalogue will be shared with stakeholders on June 24, 2013.

Designing a New UTB

Read more about our work in the RGV.

A Victory for the Public’s Interest

In the summer of 2012, uncertainty surrounded the announced divorce of Texas Southmost College (TSC) and the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). City of Brownsville long-term strategic plans for the future economic vitality and success of its greater downtown core included anchor academic institutions, namely the existing TSC-UTB partnership and shared facilities. The separation of these two institutions had serious long-term economic and social implications for the health of the greater downtown area. An early study commissioned by UT Regents recommended a relocation of the UT Brownsville campus to a site north of the city, a plan generated without community engagement or input.

In an effort to influence the UT Board of Regents’ upcoming decision regarding the future location of UTB, bcWORKSHOP organized and facilitated a design charrette during which participants shared their vision for a new UTB and greater Downtown. The charrette paired local stakeholders with national experts in urban design, engineering, institutional development and city shaping. Public Architecture secured technical expertise in Cannon Design and Sam Schwartz Engineering and engaged U3 Ventures to assist with economic development. Participants, including academic administrators, faculty, students, business owners, developers, city staff, political leaders, and residents, numbered more than 75 during the July 25-28, 2012 charrette process.

bcWORKSHOP packaged the ideas generated at the design charrette and presented them in collaboration with the City of Brownsville to the Board of Regents. As a result, the UT system issued (1) a competitive Request for Qualifications for comprehensive architectural services concerning the design of a 21st century campus that was subsequently awarded to Cannon Design and (2) a Request for Proposals (RFP) for land acquisitions concerning the future location of UTB’s campus. Continuing planning efforts, the City of Brownsville asked bcWORKSHOP to assist in preparing a response to the RFP. The proposal created by bcWORKSHOP was a collection of privately and publicly owned land in the greater downtown and highlighted strengths of an urban campus as a place where:

  • synergies exist to positively shape the multi-faceted student experience
  • new development leverages existing UTB physical assets
  • flexibility enables the new 21st century education model

The urban campus proposal was submitted in October 2012. On May 9, 2013 the University of Texas Board of Regents voted to pass a motion confirming Downtown Brownsville as the future location of UTB. The vote authorized negotiations for lease of property from Texas Southmost College and to continue discussions with the City of Brownsville regarding purchase of land for future development. The Board’s decision is a victory for UTB students, faculty, and the greater Brownsville community. The downtown campus decision is seen as a culmination of community engagement efforts to ensure that the long-term plan reflects a thoughtful investment in the vitality of the campus, the downtown area, and their users.

UTB 2.0: Proposal for a Knowledge Community was prepared following the Community charrette.

Take Reading Public

Learn more about POP Dallas.

To support the Big Read Dallas, bcWORKSHOP was approached to create a graphic that maps the locations of spaces in Dallas good for reading. We took that one step further, and created an interactive web tool called Take Reading Public that shares public spaces friendly to reading in the city. By mapping the hundreds of parks, libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops in Dallas, we hope to reinforce a culture of reading by bringing it to the streets. This visual representation of local assets aims to bring positive activity to public spaces in Dallas and empower people through one of the best ways to build knowledge: reading. We also encourage users to share a message or photo about where they're reading with Twitter and Instagram, using #BigReadDallas.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture and encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. A partnership of D Magazine and Friends of the Dallas Public Library were awarded a grant to bring the Big Read to Dallas, and during the month of April the city will be engaged in reading one book together, Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 about a dystopian future in which books are banned. Over 20,000 copies are being distributed to Dallas ISD high school students this week.

Join us and thousands of other Dallas citizens by getting outside and reading!

Dallas' Neighborhood Map

Learn more about POP Dallas.

Active and resilient neighborhoods are the foundation of a successful city. POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas is the bcWORKSHOP public design effort to strengthen the social, economic, and physical health of Dallas’s neighborhoods. The POP City Map is a new tool that frames how we naturally organize our communities: as neighborhoods. The City Map builds awareness of our city, celebrates the diverse places that give it character and texture, shares critical data on a local scale, and creates a platform for dialogue about its history and future. Filling a void among the city’s existing local resources, the map will serve as a valuable resource for residents, planners, developers, government and other organizations planning the future of our city. Strengthening the identities of Dallas’s neighborhoods, and lessening the reliance on directional references (e.g., North Dallas), enables Dallasites to reconnect more personally and purposefully with place.

TEDx SMU + TEDx Kids

Learn more about POP Dallas.

On November 30 and December 1, 2012, bcWORKSHOP was invited to participate in the TEDxKids @ SMU (a special TED event for local middle school students) and TEDxSMU conferences to showcase our POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas initiative. Now in its fourth year, TEDxSMU brought a multitude of creative thinkers to the City Performance Hall in the Arts District to share and discover innovative ideas in technology, entertainment and design.

Following the conference's theme of re:TH!NK, over 400 attendees on both days shared their ideas for re-thinking the neighborhoods where they live, learn, work and play through activity cards, video interviews and good old-fashioned conversation. During the day, bcWORKSHOP created a compilation of Neighborhood Stories collected throughout the conference as well as a map of representing attendees' neighborhoods, which was screened at the end of the conference.

Conference participants were eager to share ideas for their own neighborhoods and absorb the ideas shared by others from around the city. With the POP City Map as a guide, attendees left armed with a strengthened understanding and commitment to place-making in Dallas.

Neighborhood Stories - Arts District

Learn more about POP Dallas and Neighborhood Stories.

On October 27-28, 2012, bcWORKSHOP was a part of a monumental project for Dallas: the grand opening of Klyde Warren Park. The celebration commemorated an innovative park that decks over a portion of Woodall Rodgers Freeway, providing valuable new civic space and connecting Uptown and the Dallas Arts District.

bcWORKSHOP had a substantial presence at the park opening, engaging visitors on Harwood Street around our POP [People Organizing Place] Dallas initiative as they passed between the new park and the Arts District. The centerpiece was a Dallas Neighborhood Stories exhibit inside our 45’ retrofitted shipping container that examined the evolution of today’s Arts District from its origins as the juncture of the Freedman’s Town/North Dallas, Little Mexico, and Ross Avenue neighborhoods, and how major interventions - the construction of Central Expressway, the construction of Woodall Rodgers Freeway, and the master plan for the Arts District - affected physical and social change.

The POP City Map also made an appearance; more than 200 people marked their Dallas neighborhoods, with dozens more showing their pride in places from Irving and Lancaster to Brazil and France. Finally, hundreds of revelers shared pictures and stories about where they live on the container itself and on camera in the Story House.

The weekend affirmed how strongly people identify and connect with their neighborhoods as well as the importance of understanding the decisions and actions that have shaped our city over time. We had a great time at the opening and look forward to bringing our exhibit back to the Arts District soon!