Globe St, February 28, 2019
HOUSTON—Low-income families will soon have more access to vital resources following this week’s city approval for $3.4 million in funding to construct Avenue Center. This latest funding milestone comes after the city announced last month that Avenue would receive approximately $2.6 million from the Greater Houston Community Foundation. These funds add to a $6.5 million pledge from the United Arab Emirates to support Hurricane Harveyrecovery efforts focused on community revitalization, homelessness, library services and public health.
With this latest funding, local nonprofit affordable housing developer Avenue says construction will soon commence on the mixed-use community resource center in Near Northside. The facility, which will include community services such as a health clinic and early childhood education center, will be located across from Moody Park at 3527 Irvington Blvd.
“We are delighted to start constructing Avenue Center, which will provide greater access to vital resources for area residents, especially low-income families,” said Mary Lawler, executive director at Avenue. “The generous support by the city of Houston, and our public and private partners, is furthering our shared mission to strengthen communities and improve the quality of life for all. By conveniently co-locating important supportive services such as healthcare, childcare and home buyer education, we improve the resilience of the neighborhood.”
Lawler added that Avenue expects to break ground on Avenue Center in the second quarter of 2019 and is estimated to open in early 2020. The three-story development will feature approximately 30,500 square feet of community programming space including a homeownership center, a health clinic, an early childhood education center, Avenue’s headquarters and a realty office. When the facility opens, its early childhood education center will help address a capacity shortage in the Near Northside community.
“Currently, working families in Near Northside do not have sufficient access to people and organizations that support early childhood education,” Lawler tells GlobeSt.com. “We are pleased that Avenue Center will help address this unmet need by providing a centrally located early childhood education center with an outdoor recreation area. Along with Avenue Center’s health clinic and on-site community programming, this educational component provides greater support to families that are currently struggling to provide the good foundation that early education can give children. Providing families with increased access to services like these strengthens our city as a whole.”
Avenue tapped multidisciplinary architecture and engineering firm Page for the design for Avenue Center, which is inspired by the cultural fabric of the Near Northside community as well as Avenue’s existing development portfolio. Page senior designer Marcus Martinez, who has family roots in the neighborhood and is familiar with its cultural heritage, sought to meld form and function, creating a design that highlights the building’s intended role as a hub of community life and activity.
“Our goal–and I think we succeeded–was to create distinctive beacon to the community’s future that is connected through the use of color, materials and space to the generations who shaped the area’s culture,” said Martinez. “People may be overcoming life challenges to realize their dreams of owning a home and the center visually creates a sense of both aspiration and attainability.”
Avenue is currently in the midst of a capital campaign which has raised more than $2.1 million in additional funds for Avenue Center from organizations that include Houston Endowment, The Fondren Foundation, JE and LE Mabee Foundation, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, The Brown Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, NeighborWorks America, Local Initiatives Support Corp, Amegy Bank, Marek Family Foundation, East West Bank and the Conely Foundation.
In recent years, Avenue has constructed 900 affordable homes and apartments in Houston, specifically in the greater Northside community. In 2017, Near Northside was designated as one of five pilot neighborhoods for Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities initiative, which focuses on ensuring Houston communities have the quality of life elements needed for residents to live and prosper in their own neighborhoods. These elements include adequate access to healthcare, educational resources, healthy groceries, parks and green space, quality public transit and economic opportunities. The initiative seeks to address these elements in Houston communities where they are lacking and includes provisions for sufficient quality, affordable housing–something that has become a growing concern across the city including in the Near Northside community, GlobeSt.com learns.
Despite rising incomes, many households are still facing challenges in affording housing. Housing is far and away the greatest household expense. Changes in the cost of housing can have a huge impact on the ability of families to afford other household expenses, such as healthcare, transportation and food. According to Consumer Expenditure Survey data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing and related costs comprised 38% of the average US renter household’s total expenses in 2015, compared to 31% for homeowners.