By Emily Axtman
Founded on the need for safe, clean and affordable housing for families in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) has been working with the residents of Cameron County since 1974. Their mission is to "assist low income families in attaining home ownership" and they've achieved this over the past five decades by providing more than 2,500 built homes. CDCB additionally provides home-buyer education and credit counseling, youth and job training, and colonia redevelopment, among other programs. They are the largest non-profit producer of single family affordable housing for home-ownership in the State of Texas.
bcWORKSHOP's Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) team works alongside CDCB staff in their office in downtown Brownsville at 901 E. Levee Street. Current projects include:
- Colonias Planning Project (Sept. 2011-present) - Grassroots efforts to build a planning framework and platform for rural communities to self-organize and address both localized and regional community development issues including insufficient infrastructure, home repairs, safety, and public health concerns.
- Belden Trail (July 2012-present) - Community engagement and design for an urban 1-mile hike and bike trail that will run through West Brownsville.
- Alegria House (August 2012-present) - Consultation and design of a small home that, in partnership with CDCB, will provide a family of 3 with a much needed fully-accessible house.
- Self-Help and Colonia Home Design (July 2012-present) - Design services are now being offered for families that qualify with CDCB for a new home and who wish to participate in the design choices available for their new home.
- Better Block Brownsville (May 2012-present) - A monthly Saturday event that demonstrates what a "better block" can be in Brownsville including bike/pedestrian-friendly streets, outdoor cafes and shade, local vendors and music.
- La Hacienda Casitas (Feb. 2011-present) - The largest collaboration between CDCB and bcW to design CDCB's first multi-family housing development.
So how did La Hacienda Casitas get started?
I sat down with Mark Moseley, Manager of Special Programs and Initiatives at CDCB to ask him this question along with a few others. But first, let's get to know Mark!
La Hacienda Site Plan - The site design is focused on using a high-density housing model integrated with low-impact design. Covering just under 6 acres, the site design was informed by preserving as many existing trees as possible and centers around a long spine of central green space that provides community amenities including a meeting hall, barbeque pavilion and laundry facility. Through the integration of storm-water management (bio-swales and bio-retentions ponds) with native landscaping (native grasses, wildflowers and site-informed walking paths) a more cohesive and self-sustaining environment will be created for all residents and users.
Mark Moseley, Manager of Multifamily Programs, has over 20 years of experience working in the community development field. Prior to joining CDCB, Mark was the Executive Director of Tri-County HDC in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mark has completed nearly $45 million in multi-family projects utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits, USDA 514/516 (farmworker housing), HUD 202/811 (housing for the elderly and people with disabilities), Neighborhood Stabilization Program, CDBG (Community Development Block Grant Program), Housing Trust Fund, and PA Homeownership Choice. Mark has overseen asset management for over $55 million worth of multi-family assets. Mark also served as the Senior Housing Developer for Rural Opportunities (PathStone) in Harrisburg, PA and Housing Director with the Pélathé Indian Center in Lawrence, KS.
Mark currently oversees CDCB’s REO (Real Estate Owned) projects and is leading CDCB’s newest venture into the multi-family rental market.
Emily Axtman: CDCB typically does single-family residences as individual projects. Why did CDCB choose to do their first multi-family housing project now and in Harlingen?
Mark Mosely: With the downfall of the single-family market, a multi-family housing project made sense financially for CDCB and also will provide more families with more housing in less amount of time and space.
EA: Why did CDCB choose the property in Harlingen over other sites?
MM: The location was originally supposed to be on the outskirts of Cameron Park [one of the Cameron County colonias], however it was known that the site in Harlingen would receive one additional point on the tax credit application, [this was necessary in order to do the project] so CDCB went ahead with the Harlingen site. Securing the site in Harlingen essentially meant a better chance at receiving the tax credit and the project actually going through. CDCB will be leasing the land from the Cameron County Housing Authority for 75 years.
EA: How did bcWORKSHOP become involved and why?
MM: CDCB interviewed several architecture firms to take on CDCB's first multi-family housing project; most were qualified, however bcWORKSHOP stood out in that CDCB felt they shared the same philosophy and over-arching values.
EA: What has been the biggest challenge of the project so far?
[This is where Mark paused. I could tell he had a list...]
MM: Taxing laws, the platting process, it's been very political — the most political project I've worked on actually, working with architects...
And then Mark paused and asked, "Are you going to publish this?" When I told him yes, he stopped his list at that.
Planning for La Hacienda has been a complex process since its inception. Many entities are involved — the CDC, funders, banks, designers, contractors — not to mention this is CDCB's first time taking on a project at this scale. After tying up loose ends over the past 2 months, the project has finally broken ground and is quickly moving along!