Congo Street Initiative Feted By AIA, HUD For Restoring "Integrity" to Community

Till a Friend of Unfair Park just pointed it out, I hadn't seen mention made anywhere of Brent Brown and bcWORKSHOP's accolade handed out a few days back by the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Brown's Congo Street Initiative -- which, as you should be aware by now, involves the redo of some 17 ramshackle turn-of-the-century houses in Jubilee Park -- was feted during the AIA/HUD Secretary's Housing and Community Design Awards presentation.

Speficially, the Congo Street Initiative picked up the Community-Informed Design Award -- and rightly so, if you've ever driven down the short, narrow stretch and witnessed first-hand the dilapidated before and impressive after. Here's what the judges had to say about the project, which Brown and his bcCORPS are now attempting in Dolphin Heights:

Congo Street Initiative of Dallas, Texas. Built prior to 1910, this narrow street, with 17 single-family and duplex houses, was often referred to as the "all-colored alley." In 1933, the street's long-time landlord deeded properties on the north side to the residents. Many of the current residents of this community are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of former renters.

The process of restoring structural integrity to the street developed out of a desire to preserve the tight-knit sense of community that has existed on Congo Street for decades, and to respect the economic options available to the homeowners. Despite the need for repairs, residents have expressed a desire to remain in their homes and have resisted development plans that would displace them, even temporarily. The challenge was how to redevelop without relocation and without incurring steep financial burdens. Through neighborhood meetings, the residents developed a process, starting with the idea of building a new residence on the street that would serve as a temporary home for each family during the evaluation and rehabilitation of their home. The jury observes that this project demonstrates an exceptionally high level of community engagement.

Which reminds me: One of the greatest pieces ever written about Congo Street was a story Bill Minutaglio wrote years ago, now collected in his book In Search of the Blues. Buy it now.

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