Eco-friendly, green, low carbon footprint, environmentally conscious. These terms are becoming important to consumers when buying everyday objects. From eco-friendly furniture, local food, and hybrid cars, we are all doing our part to make an effort.
For some, the objects we fill our homes and garages with are just a tip of the iceberg. A whole street in Dallas, Texas is slowing turning green and compassionately so. The Congo Street Green Initiative is not just transforming an aging street into a green habitiat, but is improving family’s lives in the process.
Here is the mission statement found on the Congo Street Green Initiative’s blog:
This narrow street, with 17 single-family and duplex houses all built before 1910, was often referred to as the “all-colored alley” – a reference as much to its demographic as to its small scale. In 1933 the City of Dallas officially changed its name from Carroll Drive to Congo Street, an overt reference to Africa meant to ‘forewarn’ whites attending the State Fair just a few blocks to the South. Sixty years later, the Street’s landlord deeded properties on the North side of the street to long-time residents, and many of those who live there now are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former renters, witness to multiple generations of its tight-knit community.
The process of restoring structural integrity to the Street developed out of a desire to preserve the pervasive sense of community and to respect the economic options available to neighbors as both land and homeowners. Each resident has expressed a desire to remain on Congo despite the need to repair their home, and have therefore deferred previous plans that sought to displace them, even temporarily.
The challenge, then, was how to redevelop without relying upon relocation or incurring steep financial burden. In early 2008 the bcWORKSHOP began exploring alternative solutions with Congo residents, and together developed the Initiative’s process, kicked off by a residence that families have named the “Holding House”. The 38’x56’ lot for the house was donated by Mr. Fred Bowie, a Congo Street resident, and stands as an example of the investment the neighborhood has in this project.
The “Holding House”, at 4537 Congo Street serves as temporary residence for each family during the time it takes to evaluate and renovate or rebuild their home. It has achieved LEED for Homes (Gold), 4529 Congo Street is slated to achieve LEED for Homes (Platinum), and each subsequent home will meet either USGBC REGREEN standards for renovations or LEED for Homes certification for new construction. In addition, utility and street improvements will be developed with specific focus on groundwater and stormwater management.