This project will bring together faculty and students in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, policy, and historic preservation to develop a design playbook particular to the needs of historic Black settlements exposed to risks of top-down development in the wake of explosive urban development and sprawl. To develop the playbook we will look at contemporary and historic land use patterns, environmental and ecological challenges, population movement, community organization, zoning patterns, economic development policies, and patterns of demolition and preservation of historic structures and landscapes. Our study area is the watershed of the Trinity River in the Dallas-Fort Worth, which spans just under 100 miles. Historic Freedman’s Towns, Black settlements founded by formerly enslaved Texans, dot the river banks, from Joppa to The Bottom, Elm Thicket, Bear Creek, Mosier Valley, and Garden of Eden. Each of these historic settlements survives today and they are effected by similar issues of environmental racism and outside development pressure. However, they are located in different cities and counties and governed by different local policies controlling land use, zoning, development, and preservation. Alone, each singular community faces significant hurdles to achieving equitable development—collectively, they gain significant strength.
A potential solution is a design playbook that standardizes the approach to common issues: vacant land, demolition of historic structures, lack of community development guidelines, environmental hazards from flooding and industrial land use, and development pressure from coming recreational trail planning along the Trinity River. Capacity building in fragmented community organizations is a key goal. Through the School of Architecture and Program in Landscape Architecture, an interdisciplinary studio, community workshops, and a symposium organized through the Dillon Center will provide the framework for the research project. Across the one-year timeline, a research group composed of the three faculty members and three graduate student research assistants as well as community members from the South Central Civic League will collaborate to develop the playbook.