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building community, not just homes, with Habitat for Humanity


In an era increasingly defined by affordability issues, TBG is helping Houston Habitat for Humanity go far beyond delivering homes to people in need — the partnership is helping create a complete community by providing resources and establishing local relationships to address a holistic range of resident needs.

Known as Robins Landing, the forthcoming community will be built on a 117-acre property in an underdeveloped area of northeast Houston between the 610 Loop and Beltway 8. TBG’s involvement with developing the parcel stems from local participation with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), which was assisting Habitat as part of a Building Healthy Places initiative, providing pro bono services to help advise on development direction.

Overarching goals of those efforts with ULI included going beyond just delivering homes to people in need, but rather to deliver a community and sense of ownership in which neighbors could take pride in a place to connect to and engage with others.

Following those initial efforts, TBG was commissioned to develop a master plan for the site and advance the vision. These efforts began with a charrette that engaged roughly 20 individuals who participated in a robust stakeholder evaluation and interview process. The group included representatives from the county, city and housing department as well as personnel from the Greens Bayou Coalition, YMCA and KIPP, a non-profit focused on providing quality education.

This process focused on leveraging everyone’s resources and expertise to create a complete community, like exploring opportunities for the YMCA to establish a neighborhood presence and operate a community center. The Greens Bayou Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on improving quality of life for residents in businesses in the 212-square-mile Greens Bayou watershed, provided pertinent insights about connecting to Greens Bayou and related issues.

Master planning efforts commenced following the charrette’s completion and a key initial organizational influence was the site’s location between two major green spaces: Brock Park to the south and Greens Thicket Wilderness Park to the north. The plan incorporates a prominent green spine linking the two parks as a boulevard that aims to preserve as many existing trees as possible.

The greenway will provide stormwater conveyance while reducing storm pipe sizes and improving water quality through the site. The greenway will also serve as usable open space for the community and create a visual amenity for many homes fronting the park. With an eye toward landscape maintenance, the plan prioritizes preserving as much green space as possible. This includes including establishing large buffers for forest preserves and keeping all green space in the central spine at grade, while re-grading lots to convey stormwater to natural areas in the spine and on the edges. In addition, this strategy minimizes the amount of storm pipe required by a conventional approach, saving dollars.

Along with purposeful integration of extensive green space as an organizing element, the addition of a community center as a hub, along with nearby commercial pad sites adjacent to senior living, provides for activated nodes within the overall 117 acres and provides lifestyle opportunities and activities beyond a mere single-family dwelling.

By taking a holistic approach to Habitat’s longstanding model, and integrating thoughtful planning approaches with ecological, functional and aesthetic benefits, the team has created a vibrant model for an age-in-place community that can become something special.