Casitas Los Olmos is finished!

Learn more about our Making work!

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Casitas Los Olmos, completed in October 2017, is a neighborhood of 80 single family rental units and six community amenity structures where families can thrive and have a sense of ownership of where they live.  Porches create spaces to enjoy the outdoors, shaded windows help keep the hot sun out, and energy and water efficient construction help keep utility bills low. Each home has parking spaces immediately adjacent to the front door.

The 8.72 acre site incorporates low impact development (LID) strategies such as bioswales, partially permeable driveways, and native landscaping to filter and absorb as much stormwater on site as possible. Community amenity structures (including leasing offices, a learning center, a community space with a prep kitchen, a BBQ pavilion, mail kiosk, laundry and playground) define the larger public green areas. Steel roofs encompass the amenity structures and provide large shaded areas for comfortable gathering and play areas. The shade structures take a cue from Raymondville’s agricultural history. 

From the project's inception, the design team challenged itself to create a place that engages residents and engenders a sense of community. The neighborhood was developed via a community engaged design process, resulting in a collection of sequential green spaces, varying in scale from pocket neighborhood areas to community greens. The integration of pedestrian paths allow residents to move throughout these spaces of gathering and play. 

Casitas Los Olmos Nearing Completion

Learn more about Casitas Los Olmos

Casitas Los Olmos is an 80-unit multifamily development currently under construction in Raymondville, TX, built in partnership with Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB). The design of the project incorporates Low Impact Development (LID) strategies, including vegetated swales and permeable driveways to manage stormwater, single family units, and shaded community amenity buildings. Casitas Los Olmos is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.

Belden Trial Connect Ribbon Cutting Event!

Last month the City of Brownsville inaugurated the Belden Connect Project with a celebration ride for the community. The [bc] and Ambiotec Group design is an extension of the mile long Belden Trail that opened to the public in 2013 connecting West Brownsville to Downtown Brownsville and the Mitte Cultural District.

More events are scheduled! Check out the websites below for more information:

LUCHA: Land Use Colonia Housing Action

Learn more about LUCHA

LUCHA emerged from the 2012 Colonia Summit held by state Senator Eddie Lucio, where colonia leaders and state officials gathered to discuss issues which require more systemic change. A key outcome was the determination that a council of colonia residents would be created to work with local and State government. LUCHA was designed to support the council, build capacity of local colonia residents [representantes], and identify community supported policy issues for the 2015 legislative session.

The term "colonia," in Spanish means a community or neighborhood. The Office of the Secretary of State defines a "colonia" as a residential area along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing. Lack of affordable housing, coupled with Texas’ limited regulation and low taxes at the county level, has contributed to thousands of families settling in primarily isolated communities on former farmland, ill prepared to handle the infrastructural needs of residential development.

While significant improvements have been made, including paved streets, potable water connections, and standards for water systems, limited efforts have been made incorporating colonia residents in infrastructure or long-range planning efforts. In 2011-12 colonia leaders, community organizing institutions, Community Development Corporations, planners, and housing policy experts partnered to develop seven (7) model colonia plans. The model colonia plans serve as the backdrop for LUCHA.

 

Water Quality Management in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Omar Hakeem and Hugo Colón giving Mehmet Boz and David Dilks a tour of La Hacienda Casitas.

Omar Hakeem and Hugo Colón giving Mehmet Boz and David Dilks a tour of La Hacienda Casitas.

Learn more about the Colonias LID program in the LRGV.

[bc] partnered with Texas A&M Kingsville and the Local Stormwater Taskforce during the 17th Annual Water Quality Management & Planning Conference held in South Padre Island. [bc] showcased the role of stormwater management in various RGV-based projects: RAPIDO, Colonias LID and La Hacienda Casitas

Through the sponsorship of the Surdna Foundation, [bc] brought two stormwater management experts to speak about stormwater management strategies at different scales that could benefit the Lower Rio Grande Valley and its various colonias

Dr. David Dilks, Vice President of LimnoTech, an engineering firm with an international reputation for hydrological modeling, shared his knowledge on the management of floodwaters in low-gradient and rural settings. Dr. Dilks has worked on projects all over the country, but highlighted projects in the DC metro area, as well as an agricultural land management project in the Midwest. Both projects were in very flat topography, so they provided applicable lessons to the Rio Grande Valley.  

In addition, Mehmet BozPh.D., P.E., M.ASCE., and civil practice leader with KCI Technologies in San Antonio, shared his knowledge of Low Impact Development and Water Management in south central TexasDr. Boz taught conference attendees that LID strategies can be used in Texas, where there are issues of drought that coexist with severe flooding. LID strategies have been very well explored on the East Coast, but the strategies need to be different here in Texas due to the climate. He showed ways to improve water quality, mitigate run-off and flooding, add shade and increase vegetation. 

 

 Mehmet Boz presenting on LID strategies, featuring a rendering done by [bc] for a right of way improvement in a colonia.

 Mehmet Boz presenting on LID strategies, featuring a rendering done by [bc] for a right of way improvement in a colonia.

David Dilks presenting a hydrological model done to study the effects of an LID strategy.

David Dilks presenting a hydrological model done to study the effects of an LID strategy.

Both Dr. Dilks and Dr. Boz will be part of [bc]'s ongoing drainage initiatives in the LRGV as technical advisors through the sponsorship of the Surdna Foundation. [bc] Planning Associate Hugo Colón participated as co-moderator during these two panels. [bc] led Dr. Dilks and Dr. Boz on tours of the area, visiting several colonias and the La Hacienda Casitas

PIDI Brownsville: Building Healthy and Resilient Environments

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

On January 30th & 31st, 2015, [bc] hosted the Public Interest Design Institute at the Market Square Center in Brownsville, TX.

The Public Interest Design Institute is a two-day course that provides design and planning professionals with in-depth study on methods of design that can address the critical issues faced by communities. The curriculum is formed around the Social Economic Environmental Design® metric, a set of standards that outline the process and principles of this growing approach to design. SEED goes beyond green design with a “triple bottom line” approach that includes social, economic and environmental issues in the design process.

PIDI Brownsville was the most highly-attended PIDI conference ever, thanks to Design Corps and to funders such as the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC), the LRGV chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the City of Brownsville, and [bc], who enabled free and low-cost attendance at the event.

PIDI Brownsville presented an array of topics focused on issues faced by most communities in the Rio Grande Valley,  such as housing, infrastructure, downtown revitalization, and public health. Panelists discussed how to harness community partnerships and design for the public interest as a tool to improve our communities and build healthy and resilient environments. The diverse audience in attendance (city and county employees, local and international design professionals, engineers, [bc] partners, architecture students and community organizers) contributed to  a productive discussion of these issues and possible solutions.

Speakers included Nick Mitchell-Bennett, Executive Director of CDCB, Maurice Cox, as well as Brent Brown and staff members from the [bc] Rio Grande Valley office. By contextualizing the principles of public interest design into the issues that Brownsville & the Lower Rio Grande Valley are facing, participants learned how to use public interest design when planning for diverse needs, such as infrastructure, public health and post-disaster recovery housing. Participants from Monterrey, Mexico also expressed their desire to apply practices from public interest design in the U.S. to issues being faced in their respective communities.

PIDI Brownsville events included:

Day 1:

[PANEL] Inclusive Strategies: Leadership and Partnerships

[PANEL] Building It Better: Resilient Housing and Infrastructure

[LECTURE] [bc]: Working Across Scales: La Hacienda Casitas, sustainABLEhouse, and RAPIDO

Day 2:

[Keynote] - Maurice Cox shared his work from Charlottesville and his work with Tulane University in New Orleans. His design, political, institutional, and educational experience serve to tie the panel topics with what is currently happening in Brownsville.

[PANEL] Downtown Economics: Urban Redevelopment and Revitalization

[PANEL]  Healthy Environments: Designing and Building Healthy Communities

“I'm a civil engineer, so it's kind of hard to apply PID to installation of a sanitary sewer line, for example. However, I frequently work hand-in-hand with architectural firms (civil site design) so the course did give me some valuable insight into the big picture, i.e. what a versatile design team is capable of accomplishing for the common good of the community,” noted one participant.

Check out the  #pidibrownsville hashtag for coverage of the event on Twitter, including lessons learned from PIDI Brownsville:

  • Invest in the people to reach sustainability goals.

  • Collaboration & teamwork is essential to serving the public.

  • Partnership & interdisciplinary goals are necessary for successful projects with public-interest goals.

[bc] hopes to recreate the success of PIDI Brownsville in Dallas, TX. Join us for PIDI Dallas in September 2015.