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.


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.


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

[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.


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.

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.


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. (

Making Little Free Libraries

Read more about [bc]'s Little Free Libraries!

One year after five Dallas Police Officers were killed in Downtown Dallas, we celebrated the opening of five libraries in their memory. We hope you take a book or leave a book at one of the five locations. Read in Peace. 

Thank you to filmmaker Mark Birnbaum for volunteering his time to make this video. 

Building Equity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

See more posts about LUCHA and our work in the Rio Grande Valley

Building equity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a critical part of many of our projects. Together with our partners we are working to increase housing opportunities for low-income residents and to build adequate drainage infrastructure for new and existing neighborhoods, civic engagement, and capacity through design. We invite you to learn more about four of our specific projects: sustainABLEhouse, Drainage Equity, LUCHA, and Public Design Impact Initiative, all of which are working hard to achieve these goals. 

Neighborhood Stories Kickoff in Elm Thicket

[bc] and the City of Dallas Planning and Urban Design Department have joined forces to bring Neighborhood Stories to the historic neighborhood, Elm Thicket, a Northwest Dallas community located near the Dallas Love Field airport. On Saturday, February 4th, residents and community leaders gathered at the K.B. Polk Recreation Center to kick off the much anticipated project. The event encouraged residents to share memorable stories, impactful historic events, and most of all, to celebrate their culture, identity, and history. Among some of the residents who shared their story was Mr. Thomas Buffin, a current resident who has lived in the neighborhood for over 75 years. Some of the events remembered included the geographical evolution of the neighborhood, the birth of local churches and businesses, the creation of the Dallas Love Field airport, and the desegregation of public schools. 

Stay connected with us as we uncover the untold story of Elm Thicket, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

Bridging the Gap: Connecting Nonprofits and Designers

Learn more about our Public Design Impact Initiative!

"Sometimes community groups have this need and designers want to do meaningful work and they don't know how to connect with each other."  Learn how [bc] Bridges The Gap between nonprofits and designers through our Public Design Impact Initiative.

The Public Design Impact Initiative (PDII) is a program to match nonprofit & community groups with local design professional services. This program guides selected projects through a community-engaged design process and partners communities and designers to build the knowledge and experience of both to better serve others.

The PDII 2017 Request for Proposals is OPEN! Are you a nonprofit or community group in the Rio Grande Valley in need of design? Would architecture, planning, landscape architecture, or design expertise help with a project you've had in mind but not the resources to move forward? We encourage you to submit a project proposal! Proposals are due Thursday, February 2nd, 2017.


Bonton + Ideal Released

Learn more about Bonton + Ideal and Neighborhood Stories.

The newest film in our Neighborhood Stories series, Bonton + Ideal, was released free online today. The film focuses on these two South Dallas neighborhoods, and illustrates the many policies enacted that aimed to isolate the community socially, economically, environmentally, and physically.

Told through the eyes of long-term residents, Bonton + Ideal tells the history of two neighborhoods thathave been tied together since their initial development during the era of segregation. Built on land in the Trinity River’s floodplain, the neighborhoods have battled the effects of massive flooding, concentrated public housing projects, and racially-motivated bombing campaigns.

The film’s director, Craig Weflen, says, “these stories give Dallas residents a chance to examine the consequences of flawed policies. Beyond Dallas, the challenges faced by Bonton and Ideal are the same sorts of challenges that have been faced by other neighborhoods across the American South. This is an opportune time to reflect on the way we’ve built our cities, and ask ourselves whether these conscious decisions have resulted in just, equitable living environments.”

Bonton + Ideal premiered on KERA’s Frame of Mind series in December 2015, and has screened publicly across Dallas, and nationally, over the past five months.

Bonton + Ideal is “a must-watch for anyone who cares about the history of Dallas and how it developed as two cities: One for whites, another for blacks,” says Mike Drago of the Dallas Morning News, adding that, “the context of such overt hostility is prerequisite to getting your head around all the neglect and misery that followed.”

Bonton + Ideal Trailer

We're excited to share the trailer for our newest Neighborhood Stories film Bonton + Ideal! The film premiered on December 24th, 2015 on KERA's Frame of Mind program. Since the premiere, the film has been accepted to the Big Muddy Film Festival in Carbondale, Illinois, and the Interurban Film Festival in Denison, Texas. Watch the film's official website for more details about local screenings as they become available. Later this spring, the film will be published online for free - be sure to keep your eyes open!

What people are saying:

Deepwood & Earth Day

Last night we were honored to screen Out of Deepwood in the Angelika Film Center as part of a partnership with Earth Day TX and TEDxSMU. We had great discussions with folks during a reception preceding the film, talking about our Know Your Neighborhood & Draw Your Neighborhood tools and collecting Neighborhood Stories interviews - keep your eyes out for those in the coming weeks!

Read More

Public Design Impact Initiative: 2015 Project Selections

Learn more about the Public Design Impact Initiative.


Pictured Above: The first community meeting for the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association PDII project to design a comprehensive landscape plan for the medians of three boulevards in their neighborhood.

In February 2015 an Request For Proposals was released to invite Dallas/Fort Worth nonprofit organizations and groups to submit project proposals to be matched with pro bono design services. From this RFP, we received many excellent proposals, and in March, a jury of nonprofit, community and design leaders convened to review and provide recommended the following project selections for 2015.


Feed by Grace
Feed by Grace (FBG) operates Unity Park, providing Fort Worth’s homeless a safe haven from the drug dealers and violence of the street. Recently, donors have gifted structures to serve as a classroom and community building in the park, an outdoor pavilion, and outdoor signage. Naturally, we are excited about these gifts, but they have presented some unexpected challenges. 

In this project, FBG envisions professionals: a) analyzing the park site, the footprints of proposed classroom, pavilion, and community buildings, other hardscape (signage, flagpole, picnic tables) and the general traffic flow in the park, b) recommending best placement for the proposed structures, c) presenting solutions to accessibility concerns that will be cost-conscious while in compliance with the city’s permitting requirements, d) presenting solutions to assure a safe and pleasant outdoor environment around the structures, and e) designing attractive yet hardy landscaping.

FBG envisions this grant providing professional help in creating solutions to accessibility through a porch, ramps, or other inventive means. FBG would also like assistance in landscape design to assure a pleasant outdoor environment around the proposed buildings and accessibility features. Through the grant, these services would assure our disabled neighbors could easily participate in courses and services meant to help them transition back into the larger community. The landscaping will improve the park’s aesthetics and further develop positive relationships with local businesses.

Forest Hills Neighborhood Association
Initiate an urban forest approach to maintaining and improving the medians in the Forest Hills neighborhood. The objectives are to ensure that the right trees are planted [currently and in the future]; in the right space and in the right way. The medians in our three boulevards [San Rafael, Forest Hills & Breezewood] have a total of 20 unique parcels with a variety of trees and shrubs. 

According to the U.S. Forestry Service: “Urban forests, through planned connections of green space, form the green infrastructure system on which communities depend. Green infrastructure works at multiple scales from neighborhood to the metro area up to the regional landscape.” As dynamic ecosystems, urban forests help clean the air, add economic value and connect people to nature. Our goal, as next door neighbors to White Rock Lake and Park and the Dallas Arboretum, is to be good stewards of our urban natural resource through the maintenance and improvements to our medians.

Old East Dallas Association of Neighborhoods
Plans for alternative infill townhouses for the typical residential lots (50’ by 140/150’) located near the Old East Dallas historic districts, in neighborhoods that were formerly single-daily and now are zoned MF-2. The current development model maximizes paved areas with limited to no permeable surfaces or landscaped areas. This typically replaces a small house surrounded by permeable lawn and landscape. Infill housing is needed to preserve economic diversity and affordability within the community.

The current development trends have greatly increased impermeable surfaces, and this has increased stormwater runoff contributing to flooding issues. Although the City is currently increasing storm piping to accommodate increased density in the area, this issue will only grow more severe as development density continues. Some existing housing lots are now listed within a flood plain, and this requires purchase of expensive flood insurance every year. Our goal is to provide a model that addresses increased storm water and also creates a more sustainable development model integrated with the streetscape and surrounding historic development patterns, including diversity of housing types and affordability.

Sharing the Deepwood Story

Learn more about Neighborhood Stories, and visit the film's website.

It’s been an awesome few months for Out of Deepwood! Since the community sneak preview at the Trinity River Audubon Center in September, the film has played in several film festivals. On October 15, Out of Deepwood premiered to the general public as part of Dallas VideoFest 27, as part of a block of films hosted by the South Dallas Cultural Center, which included 50 Years, The New South Dallas, and Dawn. This was a great experience for us, giving us an opportunity to bring this story to a wider audience, while still focused on southern Dallas.

Following Dallas VideoFest, we released the film free online, and were excited to receive an Award of Merit from the Best Shorts Competition. Even more exciting, we had the opportunity to share this story across the nation in February, as we were accepted to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana, and the Big Muddy Film Festival at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

DVDs of the film are currently for sale at the Trinity River Audubon Center for around $5. We are committed to providing this film for all who want to see it, so the DVDs are being sold at-cost for those who would like a physical copy of the film.

Currently, we are participating in the Audience Awards, an online film competition that awards prizes based on the votes that a film receives. Be sure to vote for us over the next few days, but also take the opportunity to view some of the other great work featured in the competition!

We look forward to continuing to share this story as an example of neighborhood activism leading to real, positive change.


Improving the Recovery Process

Learn more about our disaster recovery projects RAPIDO and DR2.

In Texas, disaster recovery takes far too long and is marred by inefficiencies and high costs. Instead of re-inventing disaster recovery programs after every disaster, we need to plan for recovery before a disaster strikes, allowing for faster recovery time with less money invested to build greater value. In 2009, the Texas State Legislature passed legislation creating a demonstration project to design a better system. The Legislature needs to act again to expand this Texas solution.

Given our work with the RAPIDO Demonstration Project in the RGV and Disaster Recovery Round 2 in Houston, we joined with our partners and created a video outlining what needs to change in our Texas disaster response programs.

Out of Deepwood Film

Learn more about Neighborhood Stories and POP Dallas.

Out of Deepwood, our first Neighborhood Stories film of its scale, has been released online for free. The film tells the story of the Trinity River Audubon Center, which today is a place of discovery, education, and tranquility. Yet this location, adjacent to a middle-class African-American neighborhood, has not always been so peaceful. For a quarter century, the City of Dallas turned a blind eye to over two million cubic yards of trash being dumped illegally. This is the story of the precedent-setting environmental law case Cox v. City of Dallas, Texas, the reclamation of land, and a neighborhood’s fight for justice.

The goal of our Neighborhood Stories initiative is to strengthen awareness of our city, celebrate the diverse places that give it character and texture, and create a platform for active dialogue about its history and future. The story of the Deepwood neighbors is a prime example of what can happen when a neighborhood isn’t given the attention it needs and how difficult it is for some neighborhoods to get this attention. The Deepwood neighbors protested for 25 years, but nothing changed until the courts got involved. Deepwood points to the need to fight against a “it’s not my neighborhood” attitude, as the results - social, economic, environmental, legal - can be devastating for an entire city. While an extreme example, Deepwood is a cautionary tale for any city and its citizens.

Check out what other people are saying, and learn more about the film:

Deepwood Panel

Learn more about Neighborhood Stories and POP Dallas.

On September 19, 2014, Out of Deepwood was screened for residents of the surrounding community at a sneak preview event, hosted at the Trinity River Audubon Center. After the screening, a panel discussion was held with key players from the film, including Shirley Davidson, Mike Daniel, Jan Sanders, Ben Jones, and producer Craig Weflen. The panel was moderated by Shawn P. Williams.