Houston (Harris County) — Avenue, a local nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable homes and strengthening communities, is receiving environmentally-friendly upgrades thanks to a near $200,000 gift from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club.
The green amenities will complement Avenue Center, a new community resource center currently under construction in Near Northside.
The upgrades include more than 35 kilowatts total of solar to reduce energy costs, as well as an electric vehicle, electric vehicle charging stations and bike racks to provide and promote clean methods of transportation. Showers will also be installed on-site to enable and encourage bicycle commuting by Avenue Center tenants.
The facility, advantageously located on METRO’s Redline, helps encourage the use of public transit.
“We are delighted by this generous gift from Sun Club that will improve sustainability at Avenue Center,” said Mary Lawler, executive director for Avenue. “Not only will this allow Avenue to implement a variety of green amenities that improve Avenue Center’s function, it also supports our commitment to improving the quality of life for local families.
“We look forward to completing the final phases of construction and opening the doors on this vital community resource for our neighbors later this year.”
The facility’s rooftop solar array will be 30 kW and the parking canopy will be 5.2 kW, which together is the equivalent of planting 1,112 trees or 8,500 households turning off their lights for an entire year. Driving an electric vehicle, powered by 100 percent renewable energy, removes just over 10,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year, which is like planting 200 trees annually.
“At Green Mountain Energy, we are proud to see the Sun Club’s mission of supporting organizations in reducing their environmental footprint come to life in our community and Avenue Center is a great example of that,” said Mark Parsons, vice president and general manager for Green Mountain Energy. “We are eagerly awaiting the Center’s grand opening and are excited to see the positive impact it will have in the Near Northside.”
Green Mountain Energy Company established Sun Club in 2002 and since then it has been empowering local communities through nonprofit partnerships and sustainability grants. Green Mountain Energy invites its customers and employees to contribute to a fund to support projects promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, education and awareness, clean transportation and sustainable agriculture.
VBX reported on this project in January 2019 and again in February 2019 when the project was in design and receiving funding from City Council.
Located at 3517 Irvington Blvd., Avenue Center will feature approximately 30,500 square feet of community programming space. The Greater Northside community hub will offer area residents access to a wide variety of programs and services, including a new Legacy Community Health Clinic, homebuyer education and counseling, financial education in partnership with BBVA, space for meetings and trainings, and a YMCA early childhood education center, which will help address the shortage of early childhood education capacity in the community.
While announcing Avenue Center’s development last year, Lawler emphasized the goal of the center is to conveniently co-locate a variety of vital resources for residents, especially low-income families, to improve access to essential support services that will improve the quality of life for individuals and the community as a whole.
The initiative seeks to address these elements in Houston communities where they are lacking and includes provisions for sufficient quality affordable housing, which has become a growing concern across the Houston area, including the Near Northside community.
In 2017, Near Northside, the neighborhood where Avenue’s facility will be located, 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.
Avenue is currently in the midst of a capital campaign that has raised more than $10.5 million for Avenue Center from organizations that include the City of Houston, BBVA, Complete Communities Improvement Fund, Houston Endowment, Fondren Foundation, The J.E. & L.E. Mabee Foundation, Midway Foundation, Bank of America, The Brown Foundation, The Cullen Foundation, and Hess Corporation.
Over the past 29 years, Avenue has helped revitalize Houston neighborhoods by leveraging more than $117 million in investments for developments, including 200 single-family homes, 748 rental units and 140,000 square feet of commercial space.
Avenue has been recognized nationally with the prestigious Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award from Urban Land Institute.
Edited from an Avenue press release.