January 29, 2021 -- Mayor Sylvester Turner and community leaders gathered in the Sunnyside Complete Community today to launch the Urban Prairie Resilience Project.
The project is a collaborative endeavor that is part of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Resilient Communities Program. It will further the city's resilience goals to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the shocks and stresses caused by hurricanes and floods.
Representatives from Wells Fargo, New Hope Housing, and Star of Hope, joined Mayor Turner, along with Harris Commissioner Precinct One Rodney Ellis and District D City Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, and At-Large Council Members Sallie Alcorn and David Robinson.
The kick-off marks the project's start to transform and restore up to eight acres of undeveloped and vacant land into a native prairie and Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) system integrated within the existing developed campus.
"The Urban Prairie Resilience Project is a transformative initiative that will not only serve our most vulnerable populations but will also become a true demonstration of what can be achieved when GSI is integrated into the built environment," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "I want to thank the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wells Fargo, and all local partners and City staff for making it possible to begin making our City more resilient for all Houstonians."
Upon its completion, the $800,000 project will advance Resilient Houston's goals by creating more stormwater detention, native habitat, tree plantings, and carbon capture capacity greenspace as well as recreation areas for children and families. The project will also leverage partnerships between multiple local and national organizations, support affordable housing, serve as a demonstration project adjacent to the Sunnyside Complete Community, and create an educational and workforce development program for children, residents, and city staff alike.
"We cannot have resilient communities without focusing on equity," said Commissioner Ellis. "Our most vulnerable communities are the most impacted by natural disasters. This project is a perfect example of how partners can come together to do just that."
In 2020, the City received award notice of the Resilient Communities Grant Program, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funded by Wells Fargo. Houston is among 11 Resilient Communities Program grants awarded this year, totaling $3.6 million and generating an additional $4.5 million in matching contributions from non-profit organizations and tribes across the U.S to help communities address and mitigate the impact of natural disasters and a changing climate.
"We believe that climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time, and we are committed to working throughout our value chain to take action to promote more sustainability living," said Wells Fargo Executive Vice President Nipul Patel. "We know that with this additional funding, the Urban Prairie Resiliency Project will be able to address the critical needs of this community and position Houston for further growth."
The project will take approximately two years to complete, with construction and planting finalized by December 2022. The next steps include a design meeting with stakeholders and workshops conducted in February and extensive stakeholder engagement with Cornerstone Community residents to be completed by March.
The project demonstrates the collaborative nature of climate adaptation projects, relying on the expertise of key implementation partners, including Asakura Robinson. The team will also leverage The Nature Conservancy's expertise, the Katy Prairie Conservancy, Houston Parks Board, Urban Harvest, and City of Houston Public Works and Parks and Recreation Departments.
"The partnership model established in the Urban Prairie Resiliency Project can serve as a scalable model for future implementation of resilience projects in Houston," said Marissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Houston. "Our Resilient Houston strategy is committed to implementing 100 GSI projects by 2025, and we are proud to begin our work with the New Hope Housing and Star of Hope project."
The project location is off Highway 288 and Reed Road within the Cornerstone Community Campus, which collectively serves 1,200 - 1,300 people via the Star of Hope's Women & Family Development Center and the New Hope Housing Reed affordable housing complex. While the Cornerstone community has already received LEED certification in many of its existing buildings, an important step in sustainability, the focus on integrating nature to the entire site will create a more holistic campus for its residents and the community.
"The Cornerstone Community is dedicated to help families lift themselves from generational poverty and this project is a prime example of the work that New Hope Housing undertakes at the nexus of art, architecture, and infrastructure," said Joy Horak-Brown, President and CEO of New Hope Housing.
About Resilient Communities
In 2017, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation created the Resilient Communities program to boost community capacity to prepare for impacts associated with coastal sea level rise, water quantity and quality issues and extended wildfire seasons. The program empowers communities to advance and employ natural features like urban tree canopies, wetlands, healthy upstream watersheds, resilient shorelines and forests that provide natural protections against extreme weather events. The Resilient Communities program prioritizes inclusion and aiding historically underserved, low- and moderate-income communities.
A detailed listing of the 2020 grants made through the Resilient Communities program is available here.
For more information, contact Chief Resilience Officer, Marissa Aho https://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/chief-resilience-officer.html