UH Community Design Resource Center & Avenue receive National Planning Award

The Community Design Resource Center (CDRC) at the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and Avenue Community Development Corp, 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.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 43,700 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

About Avenue

Avenue’s mission is to build affordable homes and strengthen communities. The organization enhances the quality of life of working families and works to promote Houston’s future as a world-class city of healthy, vibrant and economically diverse neighborhoods. Avenue develops homes for purchase and rent as well as provides homebuyer education and counseling to help working families buy and maintain their own homes. They promote economic development and offer supportive services such as computer labs, after-school programs, and nutrition, fitness, and financial literacy classes that enrich the lives of the individuals and families they serve. Avenue is a member of the nationwide NeighborWorks® Network of more than 245 community development organizations working in nearly 4,358 urban, suburban and rural communities across America. Connect with Avenue on Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBAvenueCDC and Twitter: https://twitter.com/AvenueCDC.

HOUSTON April 27, 2017
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