GlobeSt.com, February 26, 2020
HOUSTON—Local affordable housing nonprofit Avenue is getting an environmentally friendly upgrade thanks to a nearly $200,000 gift from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. The green amenities will complement Avenue Center, a community resource center currently under construction in Near Northside.
The sustainable upgrades include more than 35 kilowatts of solar to reduce energy costs, as well as an electric vehicle, electric vehicle charging stations, and bike racks to provide and promote clean methods of transportation. Showers will also be installed to encourage bicycle commuting by Avenue Center tenants. The facility, located on METRO’s Redline, also helps to encourage the use of public transit.
“Not only will this allow Avenue to implement a variety of green amenities that improve Avenue Center’s function, it also supports our commitment to improving the quality of life for local families,” said Mary Lawler, executive director for Avenue. “We look forward to completing the final phases of construction and opening the doors on this vital community resource for our neighbors later this year.”
The facility’s rooftop solar array will be 30 kW and the parking canopy will be 5.2 kW, which combined is the equivalent of planting 1,112 trees or 8,500 households going dark for an entire year. Driving an electric vehicle powered by 100% renewable energy removes slightly more than 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, which is the equivalent of planting 200 trees annually.
“For many years, Avenue has been committed to incorporating resilience, environmental/green and healthy building practices into our design and construction programs,” Lawler tells GlobeSt.com. “Avenue Center is no exception. Thanks to Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, we are expanding our sustainable footprint at Avenue Center, incorporating solar energy amenities that would otherwise not have been possible due to the cost for us as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This mixed-use community hub is also being built according to the city of Houston’s high-efficiency design standards in the building code and includes sustainable elements like low-emissivity windows, low-water flow fixtures and energy-efficient HVAC systems.”
Green Mountain Energy Company established Sun Club in 2002 and since then has been boosting local communities through nonprofit partnerships and sustainability grants. Green Mountain Energy invites its customers and employees to contribute to a fund to support projects promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, education and awareness, clean transportation and sustainable agriculture.
“At Green Mountain Energy, we are proud to see the Sun Club’s mission of supporting organizations in reducing their environmental footprint come to life in our community and Avenue Center is a great example of that,” said Mark Parsons, vice president and general manager for Green Mountain Energy. “We are eagerly awaiting the Center’s grand opening and are excited to see the positive impact it will have in the Near Northside.”
Avenue Center will feature approximately 30,500 square feet of community programming space. The Greater Northside community hub will offer area residents a wide variety of programs and services including a new Legacy Community Health Clinic, homebuyer education and counseling, financial education in partnership with BBVA, space for meetings and trainings, and a YMCA early childhood education center, which will help address the shortage of early childhood education capacity in the community.
When announcing Avenue Center’s development at 3517 Irvington Blvd. last year, Lawler emphasized the goal of the center is to conveniently co-locate a variety of vital resources for residents, especially low-income families, to improve access to essential support services that will improve the quality of life for individuals and the community as a whole.
The initiative seeks to address these elements lacking in some Houston communities and includes provisions for sufficient quality affordable housing, which has become a growing concern across the Houston area including the Near 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. These elements include adequate access to healthcare, educational resources, healthy groceries, parks and green space, quality public transit and economic opportunities.
“Avenue Center also features important resiliency elements including the installation of a backup generator to allow the continued operation of the facility during periods of extended power outages such as after a hurricane,” Lawler tells GlobeSt.com. “This means that Avenue Center can serve as a hub for the community in times of need.”
Avenue is currently in the midst of a capital campaign that has raised more than $10.5 million for Avenue Center from organizations that include the city of Houston, BBVA, Complete Communities Improvement Fund, Houston Endowment, Fondren Foundation, the JE and LE Mabee Foundation, Midway Foundation, Bank of America, the Brown Foundation, the Cullen Foundation and Hess Corporation.
During the past 29 years, Avenue has helped revitalize Houston neighborhoods by leveraging more than $117 million in investments for developments including 200 single-family homes, 748 rental units and 140,000 square feet of commercial space. Avenue has been recognized nationally with the Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award from Urban Land Institute, GlobeSt.com learns.
“We are proud that Avenue has been recognized for building to green standards by the Urban Land Institute and Houston Galveston Area Council,” Lawler tells GlobeSt.com. “These standards, which are incorporated into all of our affordable developments, include energy-efficient design, i.e., windows, insulation, etc., Energy Star HVAC and appliances, low-flow toilets and showers, environmentally friendly insulation, carpet and flooring from recycled materials when possible, low VOC paint and flood-resistant landscaping. We understand that these amenities are not just essential for creating healthier communities but they also help improve the quality of life for our working families through cost savings and healthier living environments.”