Allen Parkway Community Campus Concept Narrative
Submitted by Allen Parkway Village Residents Councildc: May 1994
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.
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.