The Congo Street Initiative is an inspiring community restoration project in the Jubilee Park neighborhood of East Dallas. Led by bcWorkshop with the help of hundreds of volunteers and architecture students from the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture, the project restored new homes for five families using materials from their old homes. Each family was closely involved with the design and reconstruction of their sanctuaries, and the project has helped to stabilize the neighborhood. The homes were completed in 2010, and in the fall of 2012 the project made the overall street more sustainable and added solar panels to each roof.
Before work began, Congo Street was a collection of small houses in a state of disrepair. Many residents had lived there for years in houses that had been handed down from parents or grandparents, but the area was slated for redevelopment. Rather than evict the residents, the project began to sustainably reconstruct the street and give residents secure, low maintenance and reliable housing. bcWorkshop held many community workshops and meetings to come up with a workable plan, which involved building a whole new house for families to live in while their own home was being rebuilt.
Working with architecture students from UT Arlington as well as AmeriCorps, Volunteers in Service to America, and several local service groups, bcWorkshop carefully deconstructed each home and then rebuilt new ones to accommodate the families. Building large homes would have been out of the budget and inappropriate for the scale of the street, so new homes were kept to small footprints. The original homes were around 625 sq ft and the largest of the new homes was increased to 975 sq ft. Wood and siding from the original dwellings was reclaimed and reused as siding, stairs, railings and decorative finishes.
After the homes were completed, the next phase of work began to make Congo Street Dallas’s first “Green Street.” This involved incorporating stormwater management, retention, and bio-filtration into the street to make it a safer place to live, and solar power and thermal systems were installed on each rooftop to reduce utility costs. These projects were all funded with support from the city, various community foundations and many volunteers.