Congo Street Initiative - Phase 2

Learn more about our work in Dallas


Congo Street: Phase 2 is a partnership between Jubilee Park Community Center Corporation (JPCCC) and [bc] to design homes on Congo Street. The work on Congo St. seeks to combat vacancy through the design and completion of six owner-occupied homes on currently vacant properties. The project combines an overall site strategy developed through a community-informed process with current residents and individual home designs driven by the choices of the new homeowners. The completed homes will address issues of environmental sustainability, with a target goal of LEED Silver certification for all six lots.

Currently, the new homes are being constructed. The first house of the second phase has already been completed, two more are under construction and expecting completion in 2017, and the last three are currently being designed with their prospective owners. 

Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Silver Medal

The Bruner Foundation Inc., sponsor of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA), has announced its 2013 Gold and Silver Medalists, marking twenty-five years of honoring innovative urban placemaking. 

The Bruner Foundation Inc., sponsor of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA), has announced its 2013 Gold and Silver Medalists, marking twenty-five years of honoring innovative urban placemaking. Founded in 1987, the biennial award celebrates urban places distinguished by quality design and contributions to the social, economic, and communal vitality of our nation's cities. A selection committee of six urban experts determined the winners from among five finalists, naming Inspiration Kitchens-Garfield Park (Chicago, IL) the Gold Medalist and recipient of $50,000 to support the project. bcWORKSHOP congratulates Inspiration Kitchens on this accolade recognizing both its innovation and replicability.

Inspiration Kitchens—Garfield Park – Chicago, IL - submitted by Inspiration Corporation. An entrepreneurial, nonprofit initiative on Chicago’s west side that includes an 80-seat restaurant. The LEED Gold certified facility serves free and affordable healthy meals in an economically challenged neighborhood and offers a thirteen-week training program that helps individuals gain skills and experience leading to food service industry employment. “We are honored to have been chosen from the outstanding finalists to receive this award,” says Shannon Stewart, executive director and CEO, Inspiration Corporation. “We are proud of our success in creating meaningful connections in Garfield Park and are grateful that the award will help us continue to engage with members of this underserved community.”

The four 2013 RBA Silver Medalists each receive $10,000 to support their projects:

Congo Street Initiative - Dallas, TX - submitted by buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The LEED Gold or Platinum-certified rehabilitation of five houses and the construction of a sixth for transitional housing, as well as a green street designed in collaboration with residents.

Louisville Waterfront Park – Louisville, KY – submitted by Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation. An 85-acre urban park developed over more than two decades that repurposed abandoned industrial land and reconnected the city with the Ohio River.

The Steel Yard - Providence, RI – submitted by Klopfer Martin Design Group. A 3.5-acre historic steel fabrication facility transformed into an environmentally responsible campus for arts education, workforce training, and small-scale manufacturing.

Via Verde - Bronx, NY – submitted by Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses. A 222-unit, LEED Gold certified, affordable housing development in the Bronx designed as a model for healthy and sustainable urban living.

“Our twenty-fifth anniversary Rudy Bruner Award winners highlight the diversity of innovation in our cities today,” says Simeon Bruner, founder of RBA. “They show us urban excellence at all scales and inspire us with their optimism.”

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP led the Congo Street Initiative in the transformation of a small forgotten street in the Jubilee Park neighborhood of Dallas, and in doing so presented a model for community revitalization. The initiative was built on close collaboration with residents and the successful coordination of partners, funders, and volunteers. "We are honored to have been selected as a finalist and continue to be humbled as we receive a 2013 silver medal," states Brent Brown, bcWORKSHOP's founding director.

Congo Street Initiative

Learn more about our work in Dallas.


Congo Street is located just two miles from Dallas’s city center and three blocks from the Texas State Fair grounds in the East Dallas neighborhood of Jubilee Park, a 62-block area housing approximately 2,000 residents. With a density of 26 units per acre and houses averaging 600 square feet, Congo Street is a remnant of a socially and economically segregated time. Built around 1920, this small community of dwellings fell into disrepair with little attention from landlords, the surrounding neighborhood, or the City itself. Many current residents are the children and grandchildren of former renters and witness to multiple generations of its tight-knit community. The area continues to struggle with poverty, language barriers, low educational attainment, lack of job skills and vocational opportunities, and other challenges of lower-income communities.

The Congo Street Initiative started from the desire to help stabilize the home-ownership of five families on Congo Street, which was was forgotten and slated to be removed and redeveloped. The project grew through intense interaction with residents, stakeholders and partners into a collaborative design and redevelopment effort that produced three phases of work:

Holding House - With a common desire to remain on the street despite the urgent need to repair their homes, residents were hesitant to move forward with any plans that would displace them, even temporarily. The challenge was how to redevelop without relying upon relocation or incurring steep financial burden. bcWORKSHOP and the residents began by exploring alternative solutions. Through neighborhood meetings, the idea emerged to build a new residence on the street that would serve as a temporary home for each family during the evaluation and renovation/rebuilding of their homes. The Holding House model delivered a new value to this community by rebuilding it while retaining its social cohesion.

4537 - Holding House Completion - September 2008

De-constructing and re-constructing 5 family homes - Next, one by one, each family moved into the Holding House and was closely involved in the design and construction of the rebuilding of their homes. Instead of conventional demolition, each existing home was carefully deconstructed to preserve the materials. The incorporation of those reclaimed materials in the new home preserve the memory of the old home and the familial connections to each place. As the original structures measured 625 square feet  each, larger contemporary homes would have been inappropriate for the scale of the street. Thoughtful design driven by resident input resulted in functional, energy efficient homes with small footprints. The largest rebuilt home measures just 975 square feet distributed on two stories, accommodating a large, multigenerational household.

4529 - Frankie’s Home Completion - April 2009

4523 - Vernessia’s Home Completion - June 2009

4525 - Pat & Earnest’s Home Completion - September 2009

4539 - Fred’s Home Completion - May 2010

4533 - Ms. Ella’s Home Completion - August 2010

Green Street - Finally, a green infrastructure was implemented in two parts: 1) rebuilding the existing street into Dallas's first "Green Street" in order to incorporate stormwater management, retention, and bio-filtration while also making it a safer place for residents to live and play; and 2) adding solar power and solar thermal systems to the homes and meeting with residents (Power Plus) to assist in reducing their energy consumption and concomitant utility costs.

Solar Panel Installations Completed - February 2011

Green Street/Infrastructure Completion - November 2012

Beyond securing healthier indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and durability through sustainable building practices, all homes are also shaped to contribute to the social enrichment and livelihood of the street through features such as generous front porches and shared landscaping. The new Green Street design features a system that maximizes the filtration of rainfall and other runoff. The street width for traffic is reduced, limiting the use of impervious concrete and improving pedestrian safety.  All aspects if the initiative were optimized for multiple  dimensions of performance.

Attesting to the initiative’s design caliber, the project has received the following local and national design awards:

  • 2008 Dallas AIA Excellence in Community Design Award & Excellence in Sustainable Design Award (Holding House)
  • 2010 Dallas AIA Excellence in Community Design Award & Excellence in Sustainable Design Award (Ms. Ella's House)
  • 2010 AIA & U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary’s Award: Excellence in Community Informed Design (Congo Street)
  • 2011 SEED National Competition Winner (Congo Street)
  • 2013 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Silver Medalist (Congo Street)

The Congo Street Initiative was a successful partnership between:

  • Congo Street families (a total of 27 people)
  • 20+ local resident volunteers
  • 65+ architecture students from the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture
  • Hundreds of volunteers in conjunction with AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America, and several local service groups

Funding for the Congo Street home rebuilds included support from The Meadows Foundation, the City of Dallas, The Real Estate Council, Citi Community Development, and individual donors. The alternative energy systems are funded by Patriot Solar Power through a grant from the Sue Pope Foundation.

The Green Street was fully funded by the City of Dallas in partnership with the City of Dallas Public Works & Housing Departments, Southern Methodist University Bobby Lyle School of Engineering, Huitt-Zollars Engineering, and the Texas Trees Foundation.

Power Plus

Research shows that 40 percent of all U.S. energy is consumed by buildings and 30 percent of that energy is wasted. Power Plus is bcW's energy education initiative addressing many of the underlying social, economic, and environmental factors that influence energy use. The initiative focuses the energy conversation within the scale of the home and employs high-tech and hands-on design tools that enable residents to make informed energy choices in the operation of their home in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

The high-tech side of the program utilizes an energy monitoring system called The Energy Detective (TED) to measure individual circuits and display real-time electricity cost within the home. Kill-a-Watt meters measure additional plug loads, creating a data-rich inventory of the home environment. bcWORKSHOP prepares detailed, graphic monthly reports of this data visualizing the home's energy use supplementing traditional utility bills.

The hands-on side involves a game-board style toolkit facilitating conversations about saving energy and money. The toolkit guides residents through a three month, seven meeting (4 weekly, then 2 bi-weekly, and 1 final month) discovery process with a bcWORKSHOP Energy Advisor. Visual tools including an annual graph of past power usage and the home's projected baseline performance serve as a guide for residents to inform decisionmaking, evaluate performance and achieve power usage goals. Using the toolkit, residents graph the weekly cost of appliances/activities separately, identifying the most costly behaviors. Additionally, a set of cards illustrate the cost per hour for each appliance and provides recommendations for saving money through either increased efficiency or conservation.

The high-tech and hands-on tools are deployed together encouraging dialogue and providing data. This coupled with energy saving actions and a feedback mechanism measuring action effectiveness helps residents make more informed choices. In this way, Power Plus demystifies the cost of electricity.