El Sonido del Agua Update

We’ve got an update on the El Sonido del Agua project, our multi-year initiative in the Rio Grande Valley funded by ArtPlace America.

Call to Action fliers passed out at local events

Call to Action fliers passed out at local events

Since the January 26th kick-off celebration, El Sonido del Agua has become an advocacy tool for our partner organizations (ARISE and LUPE) to use for members of the Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres colonias in their continued fight for improved drainage infrastructure.

Content which includes the six original corridos (songs in the Conjunto tradition) and call to action pamphlets have been shared at local events to encourage other colonias in Hidalgo County to inform residents of their power and ability to make infrastructural improvements in their communities.

Here’s an example of some of the lyrics in the corridos:

Los niños estaban muy desconsolados 
Pues sus vacaciones no podían disfrutar
Nubes de zancudos lombrices y ratas 
Cubría el terreno imposible jugar

(
The children were gloomy
Since their vacations could not be enjoyed
Clouds of mosquitoes, worms, and rats
Made the ground an impossible place to play)

Las inundaciones son un gran problema
Buscando el apoyo se puede arreglar
Uniendo a la LUPE junto con Arise 
y con bcWorkshop lo resolveran 

(Floodings are a big issue
Looking for support, we can find solutions
Uniting the LUPE together with ARISE
and with bcWorkshop they will be solved)

The project is set to culminate this fall with a final celebration with one final song recorded that expresses the community’s continued mobilization to make positive changes, as well as to solidify the two colonias’ pride for the efforts they have put forth to make El Sonido del Agua a tool, artistic expression, and a movement to fight for equitable infrastructure. Stay tuned for more updates from this exciting project!

2019 State of Dallas Housing Report: Heirs Property

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Each year, bcANALYTICS releases its State of Dallas Housing Report, a data-driven assessment of the housing landscape in the city. In 2019, rather than releasing the report in a single document, we have decided to roll it out over the course of three installments in order to be more responsive to current needs and changes as the City of Dallas begins to implement its first ever Comprehensive Housing Report. 

Our analytics team has been working hard and the first installment of the State of Dallas Housing is here! This report assesses the scale, distribution and impact of heirs property on neighborhoods and individuals in Dallas County. 

Read the full report here!

Community History Harvest at the Dallas West Branch Library

Residents of West Dallas are invited to join us on Saturday, April 27th at the Dallas West Branch Library from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm for a community history harvest. This will be the first event in our collaboration with the Dallas Public Library to further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program.

Folks from across the area are invited to share photos, documents, and oral histories about their community, to be recorded and digitized for the Dallas Public Library’s public collection. Participants will also receive digital copies of their photos and documents, preserving these important artifacts for future generations to learn from.

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In consideration of time, we ask that residents bring up to five artifacts to be digitized. Examples of items to bring include:

  • Family or school photos

  • Yearbooks

  • Menus from local restaurants

  • Property surveys or maps

  • Church programs

We are looking forward to learning from and with the residents of West Dallas’s neighborhoods about the local history and how their communities experienced change during the Civil Rights period and beyond. The topics to be explored include the role of city planning, development, and school desegregation with the ultimate goal of understanding how historic inequities have shaped the communities we see today. The collective neighborhood history gathered from the archival event, interviews with community members, and our research about the area will culminate in an exhibition at the Dallas West Branch Library.

[bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project. Stay tuned for future updates on the details of this digitization event.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.



[bc] Receives Common Heritage Grant from the NEH

We are excited to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to partner with the Dallas Public Library for a new project which will further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program through events and exhibitions in the neighborhoods served by the Library’s Polk-Wisdom, Dallas West, and Martin Luther King Jr. Branches.

This collaboration builds off of several years of work by [bc] to collect and preserve Dallas’s local histories as they relate to changes in the physical and cultural form of the city. Through oral histories and physical artifacts like photos and documents, the project will document how these changes have had an impact on Dallas’s historic communities of color and how residents experienced cultural and demographic shifts in their neighborhoods during the Civil Rights period and beyond.

Topics to be explored include city planning, development, and school desegregation. Ultimately, [bc] hopes to advance a greater understanding of the way in which historical inequities have had a role in shaping the communities we see today. Given various efforts currently taking place across the city to better understand issues of racial equity and how future development may impact vulnerable communities, the project will leverage this momentum to engage Dallasites in a re-examination of local histories.

Project activities will begin in 2019. [bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project.

Stay tuned for future updates on the dates and locations of digitization events in these three locales.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.




El Sonido del Agua

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We are excited to share that on Saturday, January 26, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]), La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and Texas Housers, with the support of UTHealth School of Public Health, UTRGV School of Medicine, and UTRGV-Cameron County will host a conjunto music celebration as part of the El Sonido del Agua project.

The celebration event will mark the live debut of six original songs that have been written through El Sonido del Agua—a multiyear initiative funded by the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund which aims to mobilize and equip residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s colonias to tackle public health issues that arise from inadequate infrastructure. The lyrics of the songs composed tell the story of what colonia residents experience—the day-to-day challenges of living in these substandard subdivisions, such as flooding and a lack of street lighting. Project partners and participants hope to utilize these songs to draw attention to inequities of place and build momentum for colonia residents’ organizing campaigns to win change for their communities.

At the event, the four musicians commissioned through the project, who have worked alongside residents over the past several months to craft lyrics, will play the corridos for a live audience. Project partner organizations will speak about the goals of the project and the suite of events that will be taking place over the next few months as part of the effort.


Bridging the Block Wrap-Up

This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project set out to hear from Dallasites about some of the challenges they face when trying to use the sidewalks of Downtown Dallas. Through a series of design meetings and a tour, participants identified the biggest problems hindering mobility, and workshopped design solutions. The most pressing issues singled-out included broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the public.

[bc] and participants concluded that recognizing an issue can be the first step to solving it, and that people often don’t recognize something is a problem unless they have been personally impacted by it or know someone who has. This understanding framed the approach to the final installation: not only would the final product include a method to address the issues seen and discussed, it would also make it a point to highlight the issues and the various populations they alienate on a daily basis.

The final work is a kit of parts that together create different configurations of temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market - a stretch of sidewalk in such poor condition that it is extremely difficult to navigate. These “bridges” are mobile installations that raise awareness of accessibility issues in public space and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone. To accompany the bridges, [bc] built a series of signs featuring pictographs and text that explain the challenges the ramps address. As a whole, the installation uses color, texture, and modularity to create awareness about the breadth of mobility challenges and experiences in public space.

There will be another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16, 11:30 am - 2:00 pm.

The Bridging the Block project is supported by AARP and coincides with the #MarillaMakeover Project currently being led by Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas’ Planning and Urban Design Department.


 

El Sonido del Agua Workshops

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Alongside our partners La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), A Resource in Serving Equality (ARISE), the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, and four selected musicians (Frutoso Villareal, Jonathan Salinas, Refugio Ortiz, and Juan Manuel Alejo) we have recently wrapped up a series of three songwriting workshops in the Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres colonias.

In July, a workshop was held at each colonia where musicians, residents, and partner organizations came together to write corrido verses following discussions about daily life and the impact of flooding in the colonias. The workshops began a walk around the neighborhood and a Colonia Audit of Public Spaces (CAPS), where the residents recorded the physical conditions and their thoughts on spaces in the community focusing on areas related to drainage, flooding and safety. Musicians participated in the audit as well to hear about challenges and success stories within the colonias. After walking the neighborhood, the musicians performed some of their music and spoke about the corrido process and the musical elements that make a compelling corrido. Residents discussed the music performed and then began to write their own stories as corrido verses.

The second round of workshops took place in early September. During these workshops, groups worked collaboratively to write corrido lyrics, and residents shared out their writings. Musicians led conversations to explore the format of the song to be produced. At the end of September, residents, musicians, and partners re-convened to weave the writings produced through the second workshop into cohesive songs that represent the struggles of each colonia.

We are looking forward to continuing work with our partners, residents, and musicians to record the songs produced through these workshops and plan a dance celebration in the new year. Stay tuned for updates!

El Sonido del Agua is a multi-year creative placemaking project that supports the expression of local voice through music, and is supported by ArtPlace America.

Smart Growth for Dallas Decision Support Tool Launched!

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We are excited to announce the launch of the Smart Growth for Dallas Interactive Decision Support Tool, produced in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, and the Texas Trees Foundation.

The Decision Support Tool can help stakeholders working across various sectors identify the areas of our city where investments in green infrastructure can have the greatest possible impact.

The Decision Support Tool has been released in conjunction with a User Guide, descriptions of the data sources used in this analysis, and PDFs of the Smart Growth for Dallas priority maps (Absorb and Protect, Connect, Cool, Equity, and Health). The site also features a Story Map, through which you can learn more about the project and the analysis results.

Visit this link to explore the full site!

Bridging the Block

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This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project will be installing temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market. These “bridges” will be a group of mobile installations that aim to raise awareness of accessibility issues in public spaces and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone.

We have held several community design meetings to hear from people about their experiences as a pedestrian in downtown Dallas and the ways they would approach addressing the issues at hand. The meetings set out to identify accessibility issues and have conversations about who would be impacted by these limitations. We learned from participants about the challenges of broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the paths.

The conversations touched on whether minimum accessibility requirements were sufficient in addressing the needs of all. One issue identified was the challenge of navigating textured pavers found at crosswalks with a walker. Another topic of concern was safety and the small but important design decisions that could address this concern—from street lights to reflective materials that would indicate the presence of a pedestrian to oncoming traffic.

The Opening Day Lunch and Conversation will be on Friday, Nov. 2, 12:00 to 1:30 pm. You will have another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover project Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16.

The Bridging the Block project is supported by AARP and will coincide with the #MarillaMakeover project currently being led by Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas’ Planning and Urban Design Department.

 

Harold Simmons Park Public Workshops

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[bc] is serving as a consultant to the Trinity Park Conservancy, bringing our skill set in public interest design to engage Dallas' communities around the future of Harold Simmons Park, 200 acres along the Trinity River. Engagement efforts will focus on discovering how Dallas residents currently use parks and public space while encouraging them to re-imagine what this area could be. This understanding will inform the design of the 200 acre Harold Simmons Park.

Join us as we support the Trinity Park Conservancy in envisioning the future of the Harold Simmons Park as a public space that connects Dallas residents to each other and nature. Starting September 15th, the Conservancy will host 10 public workshops across the city to reimagine our river. For more about Harold Simmons Park, click here. Click here to RSVP to the upcoming workshops.

Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum Update

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As we gear up for the final two Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum conversations on Parks and Public Space for People of All Abilities (August 9th) and Designing for Equity in Parks and Public Space (September 6th), we have been reflecting on the thoughtful conversations we’ve had had so far.

In our first panel discussion in May, moderated by Dr. Ivonne Audirac of the University of Texas at Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA), we had a compelling conversation about the issues of urban development and the impact of public space design on neighborhood vitality. Our panelists Aaron Abelson of HR&A Advisors, Brianna Brown of Texas Organizing Project, and Brent Brown of the Trinity Park Conservancy joined us at Better Block to talk about how public space design can contribute to the perpetuation of neighborhood disinvestment or be a catalyst for new development and neighborhood desirability. You can listen to the conversation online.

The second panel discussion in June was moderated by Alfreda Norman, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where we discussed the issues of race and ethnicity in public space design. Our panelists Bobby Abtahi, President of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, Isaac Cohen, a Landscape Architect at Studio Outside, Delia Jasso, former District 1 Council Member, and Yui Iwase, New Roots Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee joined us at the Dallas Black Dance Theater to talk about how a city with a long history of segregation might approach current and future public space design in a way that supports equity and access to public space for all of its residents. You can learn about the history of Dallas’ public parks and residential racial segregation within the city in [bc]’s Race and Control of Public Parks and listen to the panel conversation online.

Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming focus forums!

Smart Growth for Dallas, an initiative led by the Trust for Public Land, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, and Texas Trees Foundation, seeks to combine community insight and science to promote quality public spaces and green infrastructure in Dallas. To unpack the issues highlighted during our community engagement process, Smart Growth for Dallas will be hosting a series of 'Focus Forums' to explore the challenging topics of race and ethnicity, urban development, and accessibility within our public space design. The closing discussion will seek to knit together the prior conversation by exploring the specific role of design in bringing equity to public spaces. Through these conversations we hope to uncover forward-thinking ideas about planning and public space design in Dallas by bringing together groups whose work directly relates to each theme.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP Launches Freedmen’s Town Storytelling Project

Residents of North Texas Freedmen’s Towns will Document Community Histories

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) has been awarded a National Parks Service African American Civil Rights Grant to launch a new project focused on North Texas Freedmen’s Towns. The “Freedmen’s Towns Stories” project aims to support residents of Dallas’s historic Freedmen’s Towns and their descendants in telling the stories of the changes their communities faced during the Civil Rights Period through oral history, cross-generational interpretive storytelling, and text-based multimedia products.

[bc] has partnered with noted architectural historian Dr. Kathryn Holliday, Founding Director of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Dillon Center for Architecture, along with UTA College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs students, and the Writer’s Garret, the first nonprofit literary center in North Texas, which has connected over 2 million writers, readers, and audience members over the past 23 years, to build local capacity through this endeavor. Over the course of the project, [bc] and its partners will train and provide support to residents in conducting historical research, navigating archives, historic storytelling in written and oral formats, and recordings oral histories.

“Since 2012, [bc] has worked with residents of the Tenth Street Historic District—a historic former Freedmen’s Town—to assist residents preserving and celebrating their community’s rich history. With this grant, we will further advance this important work, engaging communities and residents across the region,” says Thor Erickson, President & Managing Director of [bc].

As a community design center with expertise in translating technical information into an accessible graphic format, [bc] will create manuals that will aid additional urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns in the task of historic storytelling. These resources, as well as the oral histories and written stories collected through the project, will be hosted in a new online repository, which will be built over the course of the project period. This website will establish a new online presence for urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns’ collaborative efforts.

The project’s launch coincides with a timely need. As construction continues on the Southern Gateway project, which will bring a multimillion dollar deck park to the neighborhood, Dallas’s Tenth Street Historic District faces imminent redevelopment pressures.

Several historic structures recently received demolition orders as residents have witnessed steadily increasing outside interest in neighborhood real estate. These events have catalyzed a number of local conversations about historic preservation, equity, and their intersection.

Freedmen’s Towns Stories will build resident capacity to preserve the local histories of these oft-overlooked communities. By training residents to undertake these efforts, the project will further equip the many residents who are dedicated to this endeavor.

Disclaimer:

Partially funded by the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the view of the Department of the Interior.

About [bc]:

The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work. (www.bcworkshop.org)

Four Musicians Selected for El Sonido del Agua

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On June 13, 2018 the musician selection committee—comprised of community organizers, conjunto musician experts and designers—reviewed applications and held live auditions at the ARISE Support Center in Alamo, TX. The Support Center is just a few miles from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres, two colonias which are focus areas for the project.

Four musicians rose to the top of the list during this session and the committee thought that finding a way for the four of them to work together would foster the best possible outcomes for the project. Two of the musicians are from the colonias themselves (one each from Alberta Meadows and Owassa Acres). The other two live in the Rio Grande Valley and have experience working with colonias. This combination of local expertise and regional understanding of drainage and music should make for a lively experience!

We will announce the musicians at the July 11 and 12 songwriting workshops and community audits, to take place in the colonias. These events will kick off the next phase of the project. Musicians will lead corrido writing writing workshops, following walking community audits led by [bc]. The community audits are designed to support residents of the colonias in identifying, documenting, and reporting infrastructural issues that impact drainage and catalyze conversations about the challenges of daily living in a flood prone area. These audits and conversations will be a foundation for writing corridos (narrative ballads) about these conditions.

Additional workshops will be held this summer to refine the corridos and then produce conjuntos based on these stories. This effort to put the daily struggles that colonia residents face into song is at the heart of El Sonido del Agua.

 This project is supported by a grant from the ArtPlace America National Creative Placemaking Fund.

2018 State of Dallas Housing Report

Read the full report here!

Learn more about bcANALYTICS  and check out the 2016 and 2017 State of Dallas Housing Reports!

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We are excited to release the third annual State of Dallas Housing report, the latest in our series of data-driven analytics reports that examine the issue of housing affordability within Dallas and present opportunities for equitable housing development.

The maps and graphics included in the report illustrate longitudinal trends in housing production and new residential construction, as well as growth in population, jobs, and income, across Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. The report looks at median incomes by racial and ethnic group and by industry of employment in relation to average housing costs by Census tract.

The bcANALYTICS team interviewed 10 housing experts in Dallas to determine priority areas where additional research was needed. The need to better understand Dallas’s housing market within the context of the four-county region (Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant) emerged as a top priority. The report examines key data that demonstrates how Dallas’s housing market is not producing enough affordable housing to meet the needs of its socioeconomically diverse population. With costs of housing on the rise, the housing products on the Dallas market—and the regional market—are increasingly out of reach for many. Moving to surrounding communities does not, according to the study, provide a viable option for finding more affordable housing.

With the City of Dallas adopting a new Comprehensive Housing Policy, Dallas’s residents and stakeholders will need additional metrics and context to understand the issue of housing affordability at the city-wide scale. This new report aims to equip our city with the knowledge to be informed advocates for their communities’ interests.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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In 2017 North Texas continued to be one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, and one of the top housing markets in the United States. As the City of Dallas’ prepares to implement its recently passed housing policy, aimed at increasing the production of housing units across the city, it is important to understand housing production at a larger scale to pinpoint where new housing units or typologies may be needed at this critical juncture. The 2018 State of Dallas Housing Report explores current housing trends in the City of Dallas and socioeconomic trends across the four most populous counties of North Texas (Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant) to help contextualize housing production and identify potential challenges and opportunities for improving access to housing for residents of Dallas and North Texas. 

The region’s rise in population, new housing, employment, and income exemplifies the uneven nature of development and economic growth across North Texas. Growth in the region is concentrated in specific cities and neighborhoods, while other areas have experienced less measurable change in recent years. Housing production has followed this growth in parts of the region. However, housing production in the city of Dallas has been heavily concentrated in just a few of the Dallas’ nearly 400 neighborhoods despite more widespread growth across Dallas.

This report helps quantify these trends in Dallas’ housing production from 2011 to 2017, contrasting them with socioeconomic changes and housing production across North Texas. Is Dallas’ goal of increasing the production of housing feasible, inclusive, and able to address the needs of all Dallas residents? Central to this report is the focus of housing accessibility and affordability for different income and population groups in Dallas, based on the ratio of housing values to median income. Has new housing production across North Texas provided opportunities for Dallas’ median income households to access housing in surrounding communities? This report suggests the answer is no. 

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As more of Dallas’ housing production is focused on higher-valued homes, largely in the city’s northern sector, new housing built in North Texas from 2011 to 2016 was largely concentrated in areas that are the least affordable to Dallas’ median income households of color. As the City weighs a new housing policy to stimulate housing production in Dallas it is important to understand both the history of recent housing production in Dallas and the connection between housing production and Dallas’ existing residents. 

This report finds that despite large numbers of new housing units built across the region, many Dallas households are only able to easily afford housing in certain parts of North Texas, primarily in Census tracts that are heavily segregated with high poverty and further removed from much of the economic growth in North Texas. Additionally, some of the fastest growing industries in North Texas tend to pay lower wages that create an additional barrier to accessing affordable housing in proximity to jobs and other amenities based. The lack of production of affordable rental units only further enforces the challenge of Dallas’ minority and low income residents from accessing quality affordable housing at the expense of providing luxury housing for more affluent new residents moving to neighborhoods close to Downtown Dallas.