Baptist Town featured in HUD magazine

We are excited to be featured in PD&R Edge, the online magazine of HUD (the US Department of Housing and Urban Development). An excerpt is below or read the full article.

“The cottages are part of the Baptist Town neighborhood revitalization project, which includes new parks, streetscape improvements, job training, and a community center… According to Emily Roush-Elliott, an architectural fellow…, the built environment often reinforces social and economic inequity instead of helping residents. One of the goals of the Baptist Town Cottages is to reverse some of that inequity by providing desperately needed affordable housing and helping residents build financial equity through homeownership…The installation and finishing of the cottages were seen as a ‘joint investment in both the built environment and human capacity,’ says Roush-Elliott, and were used to enhance the job readiness of some Baptist Town residents [who] received on-the-job training in carpentry and other building trades as they helped complete the cottages.”

‘tour de farce’ is for real

In 2013, eight Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows received $5,000 grants through a partnership between Enterprise Community Partners and the Fetzer Institute. While creative placemaking is becoming increasingly common, these grants added the important, if not imperative, lens of love and forgiveness to each project.

Last week, these small projects were featured (with a focus on Yakima’s ‘Tour de Farce’) in an article published by Next City. In particular, the grant recipients cited the freedom that these small grants gave to allow a truly local response and to take risks while working to catalyze larger efforts. Read about how we used the grant here in Greenwood for GOOD@ Community Day, and keep an eye out for a book that will soon come out with “recipes” for how to conduct love and forgiveness based placemaking in your own community.

Hirabayashi Place 07-08-14

Photo credit: Joann Ware

keep dreaming, houston: a CIRD recap

pano at CIRD

Even impending ice storms didn’t keep residents of Houston, Mississippi from participating in the Citizens Institute on Rural Design hosted in their community February 22, 23, and 24.  One of only four such events to be held in the US in 2015, the Carl Small Town Center partnered with the Chickasaw Development Foundation to pair local passion with expert knowledge from around the country in the fields of bike and pedestrian transit, signage and wayfinding, and community development. Many thanks to Project for Public Spaces and the National Endowment for the Arts, the organizations who brought this much-needed program to life.

Over the course of three days, social, environmental and economic factors were all considered as the team discussed the terminus of the Tanglefoot Trail (just minutes from downtown Houston), and design implications for the city as a whole. The CSTC will continue to develop the design with the community throughout the spring and summer, so images are still to come, but here are a few of my favorite quotes from our expert panelists at the event.

“Building a park or a building and then thinking you can just walk away is like thinking you will never need another hair cut.” – Cynthia Nikitin, Director Citizens Institute on Rural Design

“Even the most expensive mile of bike and pedestrian infrastructure is about 1/50th of the cost of a mile of car infrastructure.” – Heather Deutsch, Sustainable Transportation Planner, Toole Design Group

“Our task is to hear what this place is all about. Let’s create a singage kit of parts based on the unique crafts and craft people here.” – Andrew Barresi, Principal, Roll Barresi & Associates

The most important quotes come from local residents though. Two images of our Houston Candy Chang-style “photo booth” are below. More of these to come as well.

a big step forward

On March 17th, 2014 a piece of legislation was passed in the Mississippi State House of Representatives that will allow the project partners committed to bringing healthy, affordable homes to the Baptist Town neighborhood to move forward with the long-planned Mississippi Cottage initiative.

Through this effort, the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing (previously a Habitat for Humanity Chapter) will manage the construction and the mortgages for twenty-six Cottages that were donated to the City of Greenwood for use as affordable housing by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in 2011. Since the homes were donated, the project has encountered numerous unexpected complexities and hurdles (cataloged here). Despite setbacks, project partners, home-owner applicants, and Baptist Town neighborhood residents haven’t given up on seeing this much-needed effort come to fruition. With the passage of legislation that will allow the City of Greenwood to donate the homes to the local Fuller Center chapter, the project is now poised to be completed in 2014.

Just as the project takes this exciting step forward, the Fuller Center Bike Adventure, an annual bicycle ride that incorporates a day of volunteer construction, came to Greenwood to build what else, but steps. During the Spring Ride (follow them on Facebook from March 14th-23rd), the thirty-three participants will ride over 350 miles in a week, raising funds and awareness about Fuller Center projects and programs. Included in this week is one build day, and the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center was honored to host the group here in Greenwood. These hard-working volunteers completed twenty kits of step parts, and assembled seven of them. Once the Cottages are installed on permanent foundations these steps will be attached. Many thanks to everyone who helped us kick off an exciting season of Cottage construction work!

positive energy

In September, the Rose Fellows went to a retreat in New York that began at the Garrison Institute, a former monastery that now hosts a variety of events focused on innovative thinking about sustainability. The peaceful setting and moments of silent reflection built into the agenda helped us reflect on ourselves and our work. My friend, and the Fellow in Yakima, Washington, Nate Poel wrote this about the experience:

This exercise was very helpful in clearing my mind of clutter and I left the Institute with several big insights:

  1. Invest in my coworkers and see them for their unique gifts and abilities. What perspectives do they have that I could learn from? Remember to nurture loving relationships and they will be there when you need them.
  2. Talk with maintenance staff before, during, and after a new development or rehab. They have more implicit knowledge about our buildings than I will ever learn in school.
  3. Get the information on how our buildings are performing to the actors, that is, maintenance, management, AND residents, in a way they can read and that incentivizes good performance.

You can read his entire blog entry here.

The high point of the conference for me was a question and answer session with “organizational thinker”, Peter Senge. Senge encouraged us to “go where the positive energy is” and “when you think about trying to convince someone of something – stop.” This advice was striking to a group of people who often feel as if they are fighting an uphill battle against naysayers and apathy. A few weeks after returning home from the retreat, I was reminded of this advice when discussing daunting challenges with a Mayor of a nearby small town. I told her, “You have to believe in the positive impacts that you don’t know you are having.” All of our actions, both professional and personal have ripple effects, and that sentence was a direct outcome of my time at the Garrison – though Peter Senge will likely never know it.

Senge shares many more deep thoughts in this video of the session.