UH Community Design Resource Center & Avenue receive National Planning Award (1)

CityBizList.com, April 27, 2017                                                     

The Community Design Resource Center (CDRC) at the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and Avenue Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to building affordable homes and strengthening communities, are joint recipients of the American Planning Association’s (APA) 2017 National Planning Excellence Award for Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff.

Both organizations are being honored for their role in producing the 2015 Near Northside Quality of Life Agreement (QLA), which is a comprehensive action plan to improve housing conditions, enhance education opportunities, grow the economy and provide a safe and healthy environment.

The Accomplishments

As a result of this comprehensive effort, approximately $53 million was invested in the neighborhood between 2010-2015, including funding from Avenue partners NeighborWorks America and Houston’s Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). This funding was used to:

  • Support 175 projects
  • Build 254 new homes and apartments
  • Teach new skills to 19,700+ people
  • Bring in 14,395 volunteers who contributed 34,000 hours
  • Gather expertise from 264 partner organizations and agencies

“We are grateful to be distinguished with such a prestigious honor,” said Susan Rogers, CDRC director. “It is evidence that university-based research centers play a significant role in transforming our city, and can substantially contribute to advancing diversity, and sustainable and comprehensive community change The Near Northside effort illustrates that even neighborhoods without great power and wealth have the capacity to create great change.”

“An engaged community with a shared vision, supported by research, is a powerful template for creating change and for attracting outside resources to support their efforts,” said Mary Lawler, executive director of Avenue. “This initiative has brought residents, leaders and area partners together to explore sustainable solutions to the challenges facing their community.”

About the Quality of Life Agreement (QLA)

For the 2015 QLA, Avenue and CDRC gathered input from thousands of residents, leaders and supporters about what it would take to have a thriving, successful community and how success would be measured over time.

“This QLA would not have been possible without the ongoing commitment of the Near Northside community,” said Jenifer Wagley, deputy director for Avenue. “One of the long-standing concerns in the Near Northside has been improving the quality of life for working families. It is inspiring to see firsthand how the neighborhood has embraced this initiative and how it has acted as a catalyst for continued revitalization efforts.”

Wagley noted that Avenue provided leadership training in the neighborhood, which expanded community engagement from within. Avenue also fostered the formation of Ten Great Opportunity (GO) Teams, which enabled Near Northside residents to focus on individual areas of concern including health, housing, neighborhood quality of life, safety, and economic development. Go Teams provided residents a forum to identify and examine specific issues and possible solutions.

The CDRC and Avenue will be presented at the National Planning Excellence Award for Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff in New York City on May 8th during the APA National Planning Conference. The project will also be featured in the May issue of Planning magazine.


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