CAPPA professors receive $40K grant to preserve historic Black communities

A group of professors from the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs are using the $40,000 SOM Foundation Research Prize to create a design playbook for Black settlements in North Texas with Joppee as the primary focus.

The group is one of two teams nationwide who won the grant, which they will use to continue social justice work in the neighborhood of Joppee and communities like it. The grant funds a research studio for graduate students who will work on documentation and research regarding communities impacted by environmental racism.

This year’s topic for the prize is “Examining Social Justice in Urban Contexts,” and the organization encouraged applicants to identify long-term policies and comprehensive plans that can help make a more equitable and sustainable future.

Students from multiple disciplines can take an 11-week summer studio course as an elective starting in June where they will focus on policy and design for the playbook.

The playbook demonstrates how students approach research, community engagement and design in these communities.

Landscape architecture director Diane Jones Allen, who has a national reputation for taking on this kind of work, will lead the project titled “Reclaiming Black Settlements: A Design Playbook for Historic Communities in the Shadow of Sprawl” with co-collaborators Austin Allen, architecture associate professor of practice, and architecture professor Kathryn Holliday.

“We’re hoping that it directly benefits those communities,” Austin Allen said.

The project will address environmental justice, capacity building, equitable urban development, vacant land, recreational trail planning, coping with natural and artificial ecological hazards and green infrastructure.

Holliday said the design playbook will be a guide these communities can use to develop strategies and future development.

“Those are the issues that we have today,” Diane Jones Allen said. “That’s why we want to, you know, expose students to these kinds of issues they will be dealing with when they graduate.”

The project will impact a series of Black communities along the Trinity River from Fort Worth to Dallas such as Joppee.

“One of the central goals is to demonstrate how community voices can be at the center of decisions made that affect their own community,” Holliday said.

Shalondria Galimore, South Central Civic League president, said the UTA team has helped the community qualify for a stabilization overlay, which protects the community from being priced out by expensive developments.

“That's putting a protection over the Joppee community,” she said.

According to the City of Dallas website, the Neighborhood Stabilization Overlay is a protective zoning designation ensuring that neighborhood character is not violated.

Founded in 1872 by former slaves, Joppee has a lot of historical significance, Galimore said.

“Preservation Dallas has named it one of three of the best well kept and preserved freedmen's towns in the nation,” she said. “We pride ourselves on the history.”

The SOM Foundation is a private foundation funded by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, an architecture firm based in Chicago.

The award is a great accomplishment, bringing everyone in CAPPA together and showing their ability to focus on interdisciplinary research, Holliday said.

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