Allen Parkway Community Campus Concept Narrative

Submitted by Allen Parkway Village Residents Council

dc: May 1994

  • Section 1 - The Community Concept
  • Section 2 - Historic Significance and Structural Integrity
  • Section 3 - Economic Development
  • Section 4 - On-Site Service Programs:
  • Section 5 - The Plan for Sustainable Living
  • Section 6 - Tasks and Timeline
  • Section 7 - Product
  • Section 8 - Project Management

    1. The Community Concept

    Allen Parkway Village, a public housing development in the heart of Houston, is positioned to be the model of new thinking about federal housing, services, environment, and community. Renamed the Allen Parkway Community Campus and managed by its residents, the concept is at once radical and traditional, idealistic and practical. The concept is based on six integral principles: (1) diversity for healthy community; (2) children are the future; (3) a working/living balance; (4) services for education;(5) self-control, self-regeneration; and (6) sustainable living. HUD monies fund rehabilitation of existing structures, while program implementation is sponsored by the private sector, the medical establishment, and local universities, thereby offsetting up to three-quarters of the cost of realizing a community campus at Allen Parkway. Straightforward modifications to the substantial existing physical plant along with human service program development permit the implementation of the community campus concept within a period of just one year, transforming what is currently a sorely neglected housing "project" into hundreds of much needed homes in a neighborhood that empowers residents to achieve their own vocational and economic goals. The Allen Parkway Community Campus retains its crucial role in providing affordable housing to those in need, while at the same time addressing a broader range of issues than shelter alone, thereby providing the means for residents to build a bridge out of public housing. [Click here to download text as file.txt (26 KB) or word.doc (35 KB)]

    Diversity for Healthy Community.

    A key to the success of Allen Parkway Community Campus (hereafter called the Community) is achieving a diverse group of residents, each of which has something to offer the others, and each of which benefits from the provision of affordable housing. Residents of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds work together in their daily lives, building understanding, respect, and a sense of cohesion. The residents will be one third families, one third elderly, and one third graduate students in service professions. Following the model of the extended family, the Community includes residents of all age groups yielding a mix of wisdom, vitality, daily routines, and connections to other parts of the city. Diversity in socio-economic status is achieved, while still maintaining public housing for the poor, by recognizing the varied sources of poverty: traditional at-risk families, the provisional economic deprivation of students, and the reduction of means among the elderly due to stage-in-the-life-cycle. These three groups comprise a truly diverse socio-economic population which is a foundation for a strong neighborhood.

    Children are the Future.

    The Community's extended family, while validating the importance of each age group, focuses its attention on its children -- infants to teenagers. Recognizing that the most effective means to insure a life outside poverty is through the careful upbringing of the next generation, the Community tends to the health, education, and social development of its large population of young people. Education, self-esteem, and life-values are promoted. A thousand children, a thousand futures, will be nurtured through a series of interrelated programs ranging from a developmental child care facility to science labs augmenting early elementary education to a radio station run by the Community's teenagers.

    Working/Living Balance.

    In the Community, a balance will be struck between a traditional residential environment where families, young adults, and elderly cooperate as neighbors, and a work setting where residents work with residents in a variety of circumstances. All adult residents contribute a minimum of ten hours per week to the Community programs, through internships, the full mentoring program, the Safe Neighborhood program, volunteer work and job training in various human services, sustainable environment systems operation, or resident management. For example, graduate students from local universities in the health professions, social work, education, developmental psychology, law, and business will engage in academic internships in the provision of services and training to Community residents. A graduate student in early childhood education gets her internship training while working in the on-site Developmental Center, tending to resident children as well as helping to train resident adults interested in becoming day care workers.

    Services for Education.

    The transformation of Allen Parkway Village into a Community Campus hinges on turning the delivery of necessary services into opportunities for education. In cooperative partnership with Houston public schools, local universities, community colleges, and vocational training centers, the residents will help provide for and benefit from a series of appropriate educational opportunities. One third of the residents will be graduate students engaging in internships on-site; another third of the residents will be involved in training and service programs that will enhance their skills. The elderly, including retired health and service professionals, remain actively tied to their community by participating in Community programs. By insuring that every needed service in the Community is also a training ground for residents -- students needing practical experience, other residents needing job training --, the entire system is self-supporting.

    Self-Control, Self-Regeneration.

    While the Community will be very much a part of the larger city, it will also function on a day-to-day basis with a great deal of internal strength. Managed by and for residents, the Resident Management Team will guide the ongoing programs with the help of all those involved in Community services. This is a form of capacity-building empowerment, by which the entire Community sustains and regenerates itself as needed. Because the resident population is diverse, the elected Resident Management Team must be representative of the Community's various interest groups. Its mandate is to set policy, oversee day-to-day operations, coordinate with program affiliate organizations, and facilitate relations with city, state, and federal agencies. The members, all residents, are elected from the Community at large and from the various service programs (see section 3).

    Sustainable Living.

    The Community also proposes to be a showplace of appropriate urban development. As a center for sustainable living, the Community will be a site where renewable energy, efficient energy use, and efficient energy generation can be learned, experienced, proven, and documented by the residents. Environmentally compatible living at minimum cost and maximum efficiency will include the reduced use, renewed use, and recycled use of urban resources -- air, water, electricity, gas -- as well as the harvesting of natural resources like solar energy, rainwater, and waste material for their use at the site and for the generation of new products, including energy and water products for return to the urban distribution grid. In turn, the sustainable living approach empowers residents who will receive job-related training in the operation of the environmental systems, in appropriate technology, and in the management of recycling and resource production.

    2. Historic Significance and Structural Integrity

    The Allen Parkway site is ideally suited for the community campus concept because of its proximity to Houston's central business district with its available jobs and services, as well as its crucial connection to adjacent neighborhoods, which will not only support many of the Community's programs but will directly benefit from them.

    Moreover, Allen Parkway's existing structures are of significant historic status as recognized by its listing in the National Register of Historic Places (1988; nominated by the residents). According to Texas architectural historian Stephen Fox, it was deemed worthy of this high status because it is a prime example of New Deal era community planning, an important example of New Deal social-humanitarian concern (which made safe, decent, well-planned housing for low income families a national priority), and an exceptional example of modem architectural design. Designed by the distinguished Houston architect, Karl Kamrath of MacKie and Kamrath, Allen Parkway Village reflects the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. The sweeping horizontal lines of the apartment buildings, the boldly cantilevered concrete canopies, the imaginative use of tile and brick to achieve economical decorative effect, and the extension of low garden walls to tie the buildings to the gently sloping site, were attributes of Wright's organic modern style that has become a hallmark of a great American architecture. Kamrath and his colleagues were also sensitive to the needs of residents, and the benefits are still appreciated by current tenants: flow-through ventilation of every apartment, uninterrupted greens for children and pedestrians, a direct connection to outdoor space, front and back yard areas, and collective recreation and community spaces. All these features endow the Community with a degree of architectural distinction unusual among housing complexes built during the New Deal under the auspices of the U.S. Housing Authority.

    Kamrath's design is also unusually sound structurally. Based on a series of evaluations by engineers, architects, and contractors, the rehabilitation of Allen Parkway's structures will primarily address problems caused by deferred maintenance. The buildings' construction system of concrete frame with hollow clay tile infill has withstood years of deterioration and neglect. Primary and secondary building systems are intact. No building code issues significantly affect rehabilitation, which will involve finishes and equipment, as well as weatherproofing of the buildings. Likewise, these buildings are capable of interior remodeling involving removal of partition walls to allow some existing units to be reconfigured as program facilities and to fit target household types. In general, apartments of the most needed sizes (two and three bedrooms) are well supplied. It appears that very little new construction is needed to radically transform what presently appear as dire conditions into a model public housing community. Rehabilitation will be carried out in cooperation with the Texas Historical Commission to ensure that modifications and any new construction are compatible with the existing historic resources.

    In addition to the physical revitalization of the Allen Parkway site, the Community Campus must operate as a part of the larger city of Houston, and more specifically, as a neighborhood among neighborhoods in its immediate vicinity. The site is ideally located in relation to surrounding areas. First, it is near downtown, the traditional base of employment for residents. Second, it is adjacent to Fourth Ward, an historic neighborhood of homes, churches, and businesses primarily serving the African American community. Fourth Ward, also known as the Freedmen's Town Historic District, will benefit from sharing programs housed in the Community, an intention of those service programs once established and running. Because the number of apartments at Allen Parkway will decrease in order to provide on-site services, new infill housing to replace those units can occur in the adjacent neighborhood. In this manner, the transformation of Allen Parkway will spill over to benefit directly the adjacent neighborhood. Third, a key commercial street bridges between the Freedmen's Town Historic District and the Community. The economic revitalization of this street will be part of the present study. It and the surrounding neighborhood will be part of the planning analysis related to relevant issues such as traffic, transportation services, open space resources, and the jobs-housing balance.

    3. Economic Development

    To sustain a healthy community requires economic as well as social and physical development. The economic life of Allen Parkway will be stimulated in two mutually reinforcing arenas. First, community-based economic development provides goods and services for local residents, by their own efforts. Basic neighborhood needs are met through cooperatives, bulk purchasing capabilities, and non-profits, including a food coop and clothing resale shop. Second, the Community will develop businesses that serve a wider population, particularly the nearby Central Business District and the Heiner Corridor, which runs between Allen Parkway and downtown Houston. From full automotive care to graphic/reproduction services, a range of economic development opportunities offer employment, direct financial betterment, as well as business training experience. Start-up businesses become learning centers for accounting practices, management training, sales and inventory procedures, and business planning. Market studies conducted in consultation with The Resident Council will determine appropriate business needs, opportunities, and implementation strategies.

    4. On-Site Service Programs

    A number of interrelated service programs will be housed in remodeled apartment buildings and in the existing community center. These will be non-profit organizations, many with institutional support from the area's universities and medical establishments and corporate support from charitable agencies and foundations. They will be set up with assistance from the Federal monies, but will operate without federal subsidy. The various human services programs will occupy Allen Parkway Structures, each including training centers, service centers, and internship centers. An assessment of resident needs in relation to existing programs in the Houston area will determine the exact composition of on-site service programs.

    A. The Children's Place.

    The youngest members of the Community receive a good share of the services provided on site, to start them on the road to life-long success. The Children's Place embraces social, behavioral, nutritional, and educational care in order to nurture the whole child as he or she grows. The Children's Place provides healthy meals at breakfast and lunch to participating children. The Developmental Center is a 24-hour infant/child care facility, guaranteeing quality child care to parents working any shift. The Preschool and Early Elementary Education (through second grade) will challenge area children socially, academically, and physically, preparing them to enter the Houston school system with an enriched background so that they might excel in subsequent years. Once in local schools, children will receive tutoring and participate as tutors, along with other residents, through the Full Mentoring Program.

    B. The Community Center.

    As young children grow into adolescents and young adults, the Community Center becomes the locus of their activities. Programs reinforce the focus on a healthy environment for the whole family, where self-esteem, social interaction, cultural exposure, and skills are enriched. The Center intends to offer area youth a place where they can begin to realize their potential by "hanging out". The Community Center is the heart of activities for all resident organizations and activities, -- a lively place of interaction for the full spectrum of community members. Arts and crafts, photography, sports, movies, dances, cultural events, and peer counseling all take place at the Community Center. It is the site of the Community Garden Project, the Post Office, and a Community Kitchen, where resident staff prepare meals for the Children's Place and for the volunteers engaged in service programs. A Support Services Office provides information and assistance to residents about relevant support programs for which they might be eligible and about legal matters. A major part of the Community Center is the Center for Sustainable Living, with its daily monitoring of recycling, resource use, and resource harvesting. It consists of offices and training facilities, along with the necessary scattered field operations (see below).

    C. The Senior Center.

    Closely linked to the Community Center, a Senior Center offers programs addressed specifically to the elderly population, where they can train as volunteers for Community service, engage in social and recreational activities with their peers and gain assistance as needed. At the Center, seniors can choose to become actively involved in family or children's programs, or retain a degree of separation. Needs ranging from transportation and housecleaning to companionship and medical assistance can be met. Addressed to the range of conditions of aging, from active to somewhat infirm, the Senior Center serves Community residents with the dignity and respect due its elders.

    D. The Health Clinic.

    This clinic, taking a holistic view of health, incorporates a basic health maintenance/disease prevention medical clinic for children and adults, a geriatric health clinic tied to the Senior Center, a nutrition program, a prenatal care program, and a counseling center. Staffed by residents and interns from the local universities and hospitals, many of whom will live in the Community as well as work there, the Health Clinic promotes an integrated concept of healthy living that is medical, social, nutritional, recreational, and educational. This conforms to the most advanced thinking In the medical community today.

    E. Life-long Learning.

    Past early elementary school, a number of educational opportunities are available to enrich public education, to overcome limitations, and to gain new areas of expertise. Enrichment includes the Full Mentoring Program, in which all Community school age children are tutored by adult residents. Reading programs for Community youth are designed to bring students up to and beyond grade level, to insure their confident, active participation in all aspects of education -- so dependent upon reading skills. Enrichment also entails various specialized educational experiences, such as an on-site Science Lab, Study Hall, Computer Lab, and an Arts and Recreation Program. For adults, classrooms will be available for a range of courses intended to overcome limitations so that residents can help themselves into new and better work situations, such as literacy, English as a Second Language, GED classes, and practical skills classes. The Employment Training Center operates as a night school, offering introductory courses to a range of occupations, which can be pursued in depth in local vocational schools. It also operates an employment counseling center to assist residents seeking work.

    F. The Safe Neighborhood Program.

    On site security, a concern for all residents, can be achieved in several ways. First, "defensible space" will be created by designating neighborhoods of already-clustered apartments within the Community. By so doing, neighbors know one another, look after one another, and recognize intruders. Second, access into the Community will be limited, via secure points of entry and parking for resident automobiles, and public points of entry for visitors. Third, a store front security office is opened in the Community Center, staffed by Houston Police and resident security officers-in-training. Fourth, a high level of community standards are enforced, so that illegal activities serve as grounds for Resident Management Team review and possible eviction.

    5. The Plan for Sustainable Living

    The Allen Parkway structures, which have survived a testing period of abuse, provide us with a site to exemplify sustainable living, a model for appropriate urban development within Houston. In this setting, students, at-risk families, underemployed, temporarily unemployed, and the aged can wed individual initiative with environmental concern. The plan calls for the conversion of traditional public housing into minimum cost/maximum efficiency, environmentally compatible dwellings. Residents will implement and manage the sustainable living operations on a day-to-day basis, which becomes an opportunity to develop skills in environmental systems, an area of increasing employment.

    Extensive evaluation of the site and its structures indicate that implementation of a sustainable living plan is cost effective. Initial costs are comparable to standard rehabilitation costs, while life-cycle costing estimates long term savings. Infrastructure construction entails the addition of solar photo-voltaics (with a payback of ten years through sale of power to the grid), and water conservation efforts to include an off-grid water sewer for sewer treatment, rain gutters/cistern system, and purified drinking water. Rehabilitation of existing structures to fit new efficiency targets entails increased insulation, relamping with energy efficient fixtures, oscillating cooling fans, and plumbing modifications (for purified drinking water and to serve recycled water to toilets, landscape).

    6. Tasks and Timeline

    The tasks below, most of which run concurrently, will be completed in six months.

    Site Assessment:

    inventory all housing units; engineering evaluation of typical conditions; planning analysis of adjacencies, traffic, environmental issues, etc.; code research; jobs/housing balance strategy; site integration strategy (urban design), Freedmen's Town infill site/land use analysis. Two months. (Mo. 1-2)

    Needs Assessment:

    survey of residents and prospective residents regarding needs, particularly related to service programs and volunteer programs. (Mo. 1-2)

    Collective Concept Brainstorming - Charrette:

    residents, local experts, and consultants from all fields including service programs and economic development come together to build upon existing plans for conversion from housing project to the campus community; set direction for all further work. Two weeks. (Mo. 2)

    Economic Development Plan:

    determine opportunities for economic and community development; market analysis of locale and larger catchment area; employment opportunity analysis; phasing and implementation strategies. Four months. (Mo. 1-4)

    Human Service Program Development:

    meet with residents to determine appropriate services, delivery systems, and organizational structures; work with architects to lay out facilities needs; determine all possible funding sources; determine appropriate service models and potential providers; develop specific agreements with potential corporate sponsors; build upon existing commitments to participate by setting programs with established with local colleges with relevant professional schools. Four months. (Mo. 1-4)

    Environmental Issues:

    meet with residents to determine range of feasible strategies for sustainable development; evaluate site-specific conditions that will impact conservation and recycling; develop detailed cost estimates and implementation strategies; propose the full extent of possible sustainability. Three months. (Mo. 2-4)

    Architectural, Landscape, and Engineering Services:

    meet with residents to develop final program for the campus; preliminary workshops to brainstorm alternatives and flesh out political opportunities; create plan for reconfiguring units into service facilities and improved housing; thorough structural evaluation of typical existing conditions; engineering strategies for rehabilitation; soils, water, infrastructure evaluation and plans; full set of plans with all spaces programmed; typical elevations for housing and service facilities; landscape plan; estimate budget for construction; create architectural model and video for interactive design with residents and for explaining concept to the public. Six months. (Mo. 1-6)

    Replacement Housing Strategy:

    determine feasible sites, site acquisition plan, work with local community organizations, develop site infill strategies and architectural prototypes, models, budget estimates. Four months. (Mo. 2-5)

    7. Product

    The product of this effort will be a comprehensive plan (concept plus justification) detailing the transformation of the present Allen Parkway Village into the proposed Allen Parkway Community Campus. The plan will have the following components:
  • Community needs assessment
  • Planning component
  • Economic development plan
  • Infill replacement housing strategy
  • Architectural and Engineering Plans for Allen Parkway Community Campus
  • Landscape Plan
  • Human Services component
  • Community Management scheme
  • Sustainable environment component
  • Implementation strategy
  • Financial Analysis: Construction Budget, Operating Costs, Funding Sources

    8. Project Management

    The concept development phase of the overall project to create the Community will be managed by and for the residents of Allen Parkway. Lenwood Johnson, as President of the Resident Council, will act as project manager under the direction of his Resident Council. This Resident Council (and its President) is a longstanding body with now extensive experience in activist management of their housing development. With the assistance of a Program Coordinator and a Community Liaison, the Resident Council will be in a position to guide the concept phase, lead it into implementation, and conduct ongoing evaluations of their programs.

    Providing technical assistance and acting as the fiscal agent, the Center for Community Change intends to work directly with residents so that they may increasingly take over these responsibilities for themselves. Operating in much the same manner as it did with the West Dallas Housing Projects, CCC will assist residents as necessary in refining their vision, in translating that vision into strategic and operational plans, and in selecting and holding accountable their consultants.

    Questions or comments? Contact Lenwood Johnson at (281)709-3001, e-mail: [Back to Main Index][Fourth Ward Index][Fourth Ward Petitions]