El Naranjal

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

El Naranjal is a 21 unit infill single-family housing project located in Brownsville, Texas. Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), who [bc] works closely with on many projects in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, asked [bc] to design a series of three bedroom, two bathroom homes within an existing suburban community aimed at first time homeowners. A main design challenge was to foster community within a nondescript suburban development, while providing the residents with opportunities for choice and individuality.

Ultimately, five different floor plans were designed with a total of nine elevation combinations, affording home-buying families the choice of the design that works best for them. The exterior of the homes are a combination of brick and fiber cement siding, sometimes accented with cedar wood screens. The shared vibrant color and material palette allow the homes to relate to each other and the existing neighbors while maintaining their own identities.

Exterior space was key to the project, with front porches prominently featured and landscaping native to south Texas adorning the homes. Two shared outdoor green spaces, formed where the back yards of the houses connect, provide a unique amenity to the residents of the El Naranjal community.

View photos on Facebook.

Cottages Groundbreaking

A public-private partnership of Dallas organizations broke ground on April 17, 2014, on The Cottages at Hickory Crossing, an innovative permanent supportive housing project and a model for the future in the campaign to end chronic homelessness. When completed, The Cottages at Hickory Crossing will provide homes for 50 chronically homeless Dallas residents who suffer from severe mental illness and have also been involved in the criminal justice system. Residents will live in small, freestanding cottages on a wooded site southeast of downtown and will receive intensive behavioral health services, paired with social services and supports, to improve their lives.

Speakers included Larry James, President & CEO CitySquare, Brent Christopher, President & CEO Communities Foundation of Texas, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dr. John Burruss, CEO Metrocare Services, and Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Davis of District 7.

ACT Headquarters

Learn more about ACT.

ACT (Advocates for Community Transformation) is an inner-city justice ministry based in West DallasACT’s mission is to represent inner-city residents and mobilize volunteer legal teams in order to hold the owners of drug houses and abandoned properties accountable.  In order to continue seeking transformation in the neighborhoods that need it most, ACT has determined that it is crucial to establish a permanent presence in West Dallas.  For this reason, ACT came to [bc] to design a new office that meets the growing group’s needs at the center of the communities it serves.  

Construction is set to begin on the office in 2015.

See photos of ACT on Facebook!

Dallas Heroes

Learn more about our Informing work.

Dallas Heroes was initiated by bcWORKSHOP in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s incredible legacy of service. Dr. King challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play. With the Dallas Heroes project, on January 20th we honored some of those who serve or have served locally by distributing "Dallas Heroes" trading cards across the city of Dallas. Our hope is that this advocacy will encourage you to honor your heroes and to engage the causes that you care about.

How were the 25 heroes chosen? For the First Edition we nominated our own local heroes, the people that have inspired us by striving to bring greater economic, social, and environmental justice to Dallas. They come from a wide range of causes, including civil rights, environmental justice, and the arts. There are many more heroes to honor - now we welcome your submissions for the Second Edition.

Why trading cards? They’re tangible, portable, collectible, and fun. We were inspired by vintage sports cards, and we believe our heroes can be celebrated in this form as well.

Where can I get a pack? This is a limited edition of 1,000 packs, distributed across the city. You can find locations posted on Twitter and Instagram (#dallasheroes). The cards will not be reprinted!

What can I do? Submit and share your Dallas heroes, either through the website www.dallasheroes.org, or through Twitter or Instagram  (#dallasheroes). On the website you can also connect to the causes or organizations associated with some of the 25 heroes in this pack. We encourage you to find other local opportunities for volunteerism, advocacy, or donations.

When will the Second Edition come out? That all depends on you and the submissions we receive. Submit your heroes through www.dallasheroes.org for a chance to win a t-shirt featuring your Dallas Hero!

More questions? Give us a call at 214-252-2900, e-mail us at inform@bcworkshop.org or drop by our office at 416 S. Ervay Street!


Read more about the Dallas Heroes project in the local Dallas media:

Dallas Morning News

D Magazine

Dallas City Grid(s)

Learn more about our Shopfront series.

by Aaron Benjamin

Every new bcFELLOW arriving at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP receives a small research assignment. It serves partially as an introduction to bcWORKSHOP, and partially as an introduction to the city of Dallas. Most FELLOWs study the development of a single neighborhood, often one with some other link to the work of our office. But instead of studying one neighborhood, my assignment was to study the entire Dallas street grid. Not really a small research assignment. Did I mention I had never even been to Dallas before joining bcWORKSHOP?


Whenever I told anyone I was studying the Dallas street grid I always received the exact same two-word response. “What grid?”, he would reply, half joking, half serious. And it’s true. Dallas does not have the nice clean street layout like Manhattan, or even Washington D.C. (which makes a lot more sense from the air then when you actually have to navigate through it). Heck, even Los Angeles, where I had been living, had nice numbered streets and something resembling order. In Dallas, I have taken the wrong street many times. Or a street has taken a bend and gone a completely different direction than the one I was intending to travel. And I still have not figured out how that Exposition Avenue intersection works, even after this project.

However, it was my job to make sense of this mess. And the truth is, if you break it down and look at the individual pieces, it is really not all that complicated. Every street was laid out by some (reasonably) rational individual, even if that reason is no longer obvious. With a few exceptions, most streets follow one of three grids, each older than the city itself:

  • A grid at 45 degrees to the cardinal directions, laid out by a man named Warren Ferris for settler John Grigsby. This covers areas like Old East Dallas, Oak Lawn and South Dallas.
  • A grid aligned to the cardinal directions laid out under businessman W.J. Peters for the Peter’s Colony venture, which covers a portion of North Texas about the size of the state of Maryland. This is all the large square sections as you move away from the center of Dallas to the north and into Oak Cliff.
  • The grid laid out by John Neely Bryan aligned with the Trinity River. That is the streets like Commerce, Main and Elm, that spread northeast through downtown into Deep Ellum.

Throw in about a dozen railroads, competing real estate interests (a surprising number of which were settled in the Supreme Court of Texas), the Trinity River, and a gaggle of freeways, you end up with the street layout Dallas has today.

The streets of Dallas account for a huge portion of our city, both in terms of the physical land and the way we experience our city. So instead of resigning ourselves to jokingly asking “What grid?”, let’s see if we can gain something by actually discovering what is going on.

CDCB Construction Standards

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

cdcb standards materials

bcWORKSHOP is developing residential construction standards for the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) in partnership with CDCB’s team of advisors. Residential construction standards are a customized set of best practices intended to regulate and elevate construction quality, improving the overall quality of life for their clients.  Construction standards will ensure that CDCB residential projects are planned, designed, and constructed to promote sustainable development and best practices for the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  These standards will create continuity and equity between products and will standardize process, policies, and procedures.

In order to achieve the above goals, construction standards will incorporate recommendations from local and national performance standards that address healthy, affordable, constructible, low-tech, sustainable building practices appropriate for South Texas and CDCB.  Currently, all projects built under these guidelines will qualify for:

  • Indoor airPLUS of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • LRGV Low Impact Development
  • RGV Green Built

Construction standards will be complete and ready for implementation by the end of summer 2013.