Feature Illustration: Concept rendering of Avenue Center. Courtesy: Avenue CDC and Page.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — City Council on Tuesday approved a financing package totaling $3.4 million for the construction of a community resource center for Avenue CDC, a nonprofit affordable housing developer.
The ordinance passed this week was based on a request by the city’s Housing and Community Development Department and the funding package is made up of $1.5 million from a Section 108 HUD loan, and grants of $824,354 from Economic Development Initiative funds and $1,075,646 from CDBG funds.
The package is partial funding for a 31,016-square-foot community hub to be known as Avenue Center that is to be located on the Near Northside historic neighborhood. VBX first reported on this project January 8.
The facility, which will include community services such as a health clinic and early childhood education center, will be located across from Moody Park at 3527 Irvington Blvd. The total cost to design, build and equip Avenue Center is $11,844,194. The construction cost alone was guaranteed at $7,335,914.
“We are delighted to start constructing Avenue Center, which will provide greater access to vital resources for area residents, especially low-income families,” said Mary Lawler, executive director at Avenue. “The generous support of the City of Houston and our public and private partners is furthering our shared mission to strengthen communities and improve the quality of life for all.
“By conveniently co-locating important supportive services such as healthcare, childcare and home buyer education, we improve the resilience of the neighborhood,” Lawler said, adding that Avenue expects to break ground on Avenue Center in the second quarter of 2019. The development is estimated to open in early 2020.
This latest funding milestone comes after the city announced last month that Avenue is receiving approximately $2.6 million from the Greater Houston Community Foundation towards the construction of Avenue Center. These funds are part of a $6.5 million pledge from the United Arab Emirates to support Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts focused on community revitalization, homelessness, library services and public health.
Avenue is currently in the midst of a capital campaign which has raised over $2.1 million in additional funds for Avenue Center from organizations that include Houston Endowment, The Fondren Foundation, J.E. & L.E. Mabee Foundation, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, The Brown Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, NeighborWorks America, Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC), Amegy Bank, Marek Family Foundation, East West Bank and the Conely Foundation.
A three-story development, Avenue Center will feature community programming space for a home ownership center, a health clinic, an early childhood education center and Avenue’s headquarters and realty office. When the facility opens, its early childhood education center will help address a capacity shortage in the Near Northside community.
The project site is north of Moody Park and adjacent to Houston Metro’s Red Line on Fulton Street.
Avenue tapped multidisciplinary architecture and engineering firm Page for the design for Avenue Center, which is inspired by the vibrant cultural fabric of the Near Northside community as well as Avenue’s existing development portfolio.
Page senior designer Marcus Martinez, who has deep family roots in the neighborhood and is familiar with its rich cultural heritage, sought to meld form and function, creating a design that highlights the building’s intended role as a hub of community life and activity.
“Our goal – and I think we succeeded – was to create distinctive beacon to the community’s future that is connected through the use of color, materials and space to the generations who shaped the area’s culture,” said Martinez. “People may be overcoming life challenges to realize their dream of owning a home and the Center visually creates a sense of both aspiration and attainability.”
In recent years, Avenue has constructed 900 affordable homes and apartments in Houston, specifically in the greater 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 in their own neighborhoods.
These elements include adequate access to healthcare, educational resources, healthy groceries, parks and green space, quality public transit and economic opportunities. The initiative seeks to address these elements in Houston communities where they are lacking and includes provisions for sufficient quality, affordable housing – something that has become a growing concern across the City of Houston, including in the Near Northside community.
Avenue develops homes for purchase and rent as well as provides home buyer education and counseling to help working families buy and maintain their own homes. The organization enhances the quality of life of working families and works to promote healthy, vibrant and economically diverse neighborhoods that are essential to Houston’s future as a world-class city.
Avenue promotes economic development and offers 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.
This report was compiled from an Avenue press release and City of Houston housing program records.