Learn more about LUCHA

During its first phase, LUCHA worked directly with 15 colonia representatives, each of whom represent a larger organizing effort in Hidalgo and Cameron county. The goal of LUCHA 1.0 was trifold. To develop representantes’ understanding and expertise in the areas of land use, public infrastructure, development, and water issues. To engage representantes to further focus their top priorities, and begin to make selections of preferences on possible solutions. And to craft policy and legislative initiatives in preparation for the 2015 Texas legislative session.
Some examples of the Colonia and Housing issues that LUCHA leaders addressed were: housing affordability, adequate infrastructure, jobs, public safety, and land use.
The initiative has the capacity, through legislative action, to impact the 1.2 million people living in the three county area, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy. The demographic targets of the project are low-income residents of rural and urban subdivisions that lack complete, well-functioning municipal services.


Community Development Corporation of Brownsville
The Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB)  is a non‐profit community housing development organization, who has been providing safe, sanitary, affordable housing to the citizens of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas for the past 38 years. CDCB participated in LUCHA workgroups, the engagement and management committees and was responsible of overseeing all housing and development initiatives.  

Texas Low Income Housing Services
Texas Low Income Housing Information Services (TxLIHIS) is a nonprofit corporation established in Austin in 1988 to support low-income Texan's efforts to achieve the American dream of a decent, affordable home in a quality neighborhood. TxLIHIS lead and coordinated the Representantes trainings, planned with [bc] the LUCHA workgroups and was responsible of overseeing policy development initiatives. TxLIHIS assisted the Representantes with their political strategy as well. 

La Unión del Pueblo Entero
César Chávez established La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a non-profit organization, which is rooted in the belief that members of the low-income community have both the responsibility and the obligation to organize themselves, and through their association, to advocate for solutions to the issues that impact their lives. LUPE was responsible of identifying, recruiting and supporting Colonia representantes and of developing the political and engagement strategy for LUCHA. Working with TxLIHIS, LUPE lead and coordinated the representante trainings, and engagement and management committee meetings and assisted with the workgroups. 

A Resource In Serving Equality  
A Resource In Serving Equality Arise (ARISE) was founded in 1987 by Sister Gerrie Naughton, of the Sisters of Mercy order as a grassroots organization of women for women; building on strengths and respecting the dignity of each individual. In coordination with LUPE and other community organizations (START and TOP), ARISE was responsible of identifying, recruiting and supporting Colonia representantes, supporting colonia-wide events, the political strategy and leadership trainings, workgroups and workshops. 

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. 

Celebrating Local Heroes

Learn more about our MLK Day of Service projects here.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged us to build a more perfect union and taught us that everyone has a role to play in that effort. For our 2015 service project in his honor, [bc] set out to recognize some of those who serve their communities by releasing the Second Edition of buildingcommunityHEROES trading cards.  By creating a fun, tactile, and pocketable way to learn about those working to improve our communities, we hope to encourage those of all ages to honor their heroes and engage in the causes that speak to them.

We put out the call for local hero nominations at the beginning of January and received just over 100 nominations for those working tirelessly in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  Nominations included selfless family members, state senators, founders of schools, advocacy group members and fearless neighborhood leaders.  It was not easy, but from here we researched and curated the nominations to get a final group of heroes with a diverse range of causes, ages, backgrounds and levels of impact.  After the final selections were made, the cards were printed, sorted, packaged and ready for a January 19 distribution.

We distributed the cards on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and throughout the week in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.  We hope that the stories of these 24 heroes will inspire people to be more active in their communities.  We also hope that the cards will encourage people to think about and honor their local heroes.  If you were not able to pick up a pack, check out all 24 heroes plus 2014's at


Who is your hero?  Share them on social media at #bcHEROES2015 and nominate them for the third edition of trading cards!

Rafting the Resaca

Learn more about our work in the RGV!

As one of the many events along the Cyclobia route, the Resaca Raft and Regatta was an event set up to re-engage Brownsville residents with one of their most under-utilized natural resources, the resaca.  Resacas are abandoned channels of the Rio Grande River that were left behind as centuries of silt build-up and flooding forced the river to jump its banks and find a new path.  This pattern of natural erosion and sediment build-up has left Brownsville with a beautiful but neglected necklace of waterways that flow throughout the city.  

For this event, [bc] completed a "resaca raft," a donut shaped floating platform with a submerged internal platform built from recycled lumber and plastic drums.  The lowered platform and surrounding bench condition encouraged people to do one simple thing:  get  their feet wet!  For nearly every  resident that came to experience the raft, it was their first time floating, boating, or touching a resaca.  Accompanying the raft was a series of educational signs, explaining the resaca's natural ecology, history, and what is next for the future of our resacas.  Kids got involved by building their own plastic boats out of recycled materials.  

Outside of the direct physical experience, [bc] wanted to give resaca raft users the opportunity to ask the question, "Why wait years for the multi-million dollar park construction that is planned along the resaca? Why not do something fun now?" It doesn't have to be expensive, and it doesn't have to take years to bring our underutilized urban spaces to life.

RAPIDO: Redefining Disaster Recovery

Learn more about RAPIDO and our work in the RGV.

Rapid recovery after natural disasters, especially returning families to safe, quality permanent homes, has traditionally been very difficult, poorly executed, and expensive. The Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest areas in the country, and often hit by massive flooding, is the pilot site for a new and innovative rapid recovery model.

Based on a grant awarded by the Council of Governments and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), along with project partners La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), ARISE, Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service and the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, [bc] is working to deliver 20 low cost, rapid deployment post-disaster housing prototypes, as well as technical manuals and a set of policy recommendations to be presented to the Texas State Legislature. Partners and experts meet monthly to discuss 4 primary components of RAPIDO: Outreach, Case Management, Design and Construction and Policy.

[bc] is leading the design for RAPIDO, with CDCB managing the eligibility and construction process. [bc] has established an engaged design process that gives low-income families choices and the flexibility to decide important characteristics of their new home.  Through two design meetings, [bc] led the families through a set of exercises that define their needs and desires. Based on these preferences personalized designs were prepared for each family.

A key part of the pilot is to explore different possibilities for the implementation and scaling of the plan statewide. RAPIDO is experimenting with the transition of a temporary unit (CORE) to a permanent house (Expanded Home).  CORE’s have being built at El Clavo Lumber Yard in Brownsville, and the first RAPIDO home expansion was built at Carolina St, Brownsville in a CDCB-owned lot. The process has helped to train local builders on the RAPIDO strategy and also was a good opportunity to share the RAPIDO plan and the program goals to local groups and the local community.          

Casitas Los Olmos

Watch for more posts about Casitas Los Olmos.

Casitas Los Olmos is a 80-unit multifamily development that follows up on the success of the La Hacienda Casitas in Harlingen, TX. Partnering with CDCB, [bc] has completed the design of the project and has completed the preliminary construction documents. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2015.

To kick off the project, [bc] and CDCB organized a community stakeholder meeting in February 2014 to gather input for the design and development. We asked 3 basic questions: what are your concerns about the future of the city, what can we celebrate about the city, and how can design contribute to a healthier city? Everyone agreed that the city is in dire need of affordable housing that works for everyone: young people, families with children, and senior citizens. People are celebrating their growing population and several new economic developments including a wind farm. Their visions for a healthy and vibrant community include porches that look over walkable streets with plenty of trees and landscaping, safe areas for children to play, and single family houses with plenty of windows. In addition to this feedback, the design is also incorporating low impact drainage (LID), material reuse, wildlife habitat restoration, and energy efficient construction

One Day in LRGV

Learn more about our Storytelling efforts, and the Colonias LID program.

On April 26, 2014, filmmakers, non-profits, and citizens from across the region went out to talk to folks about the future of the Lower Rio Grande Valley as part of One Day in the LRGV. We chatted with residents of the Linda Vista Estates Colonia about issues surrounding stormwater management and drainage.

Low Impact Development

Learn more about our Colonias LID project.

The Colonia Stormwater Low Impact Development & Open Space project seeks to provide sustainable drainage infrastructure and open space strategies to Colonias in need. By layering drainage and open space we can create spaces that not only address the problem of flooding, but also provide spaces for gathering and enjoyment. The project addresses the problem of flooding through education, political and community engagement,and design. It seeks to educate Colonia residents and government officials about drainage challenges and the opportunities to improve stormwater infrastructure at the Colonias through Low Impact Development strategies. 

Five stormwater management and open space plans are in development. These can be used by Colonia residents as a tool for advocating change, and by County Officials as a community informed designs for future drainage projects in the Colonias. 

RGV Transportation

Learn more about our work in the RGV.

The RGV Transportation project aims to raise awareness about multi-modal transportation system in Brownsville, Texas and grow it into rural and colonia areas of the Rio Grande Valley. Because of the lack of knowledge in low income neighborhoods about the system, it is currently underutilized. This, in turn, creates a perceived lack of need and demand; limiting the amount of funding available via federal and state agencies and the amount that local policymakers are willing to invest towards additional infrastructure and regional growth. The maps show existing and proposed transportation networks at the regional and cities' of Brownsville and McAllen scale:

RGV Transportation is a collaborative project with Bike Texas, the City of BrownsvilleCDC Brownsville, and the Ford Foundation.

Welcome Hugo Colón Acevedo!

Hugo Colón Acevedo was born and raised in Puerto Rico where he received a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Design and a Master Degree in Architecture. His particular interest towards open space, landscape and hydrology drove him to pursue a second Master degree in Landscape Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design, from which he recently graduated. During his studies at Puerto Rico and the GSD he worked with several open space projects related to water infrastructure for communities in San Juan Puerto Rico, Lawrence Massachusetts and the Chilean Patagonia with a focus on the culture and identity of these communities. All of these experiences bring Hugo to bcWORSHOP as a Community Planner to contribute with the LUCHA and Colonias Public Space & Storm-water Low Impact Development projects for the Rio Grande Valley.