Asakura Robinson has been working with Connect Community over the last two years on Connect Community: A Revitalization Plan for Gulfton-Sharpstown, a unique non-profit collaboration between community leaders focused on advancing holistic revitalization and breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in the Gulfton and Sharpstown neighborhoods of Houston. The four founding partners, KIPP Texas Public Schools, Legacy Community Health, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and the YMCA of Greater Houston, formed the 501(c)3 non-profit organization Connect Community to address their community’s needs in housing quality and affordability, education and workforce development, health and wellness, and transportation access. The Gulfton-Sharpstown area is a densely populated neighborhood with culturally diverse businesses and families, yet the area suffers from a significant deficit in available public open and green space, experiences housing challenges based on aging and substandard multi-family housing, and needs services for special populations including immigrants and refugees.
Asakura Robinson conducted a data-driven gap analysis and developed specific metrics of improvement by gathering and analyzing demographic, economic, mobility, housing, health, and open space information. Community led focus groups were set up to include the voices that are often on the sideline — refugees, teens, and single parents. Community leaders identified and trained neighbors with cultural and language capacity to recruit participants and lead focus groups across eight languages for a qualitative understanding of strengths and challenges. Stakeholders and community workgroups then built on this information and created vision statements and an action plan to empower, connect, nurture, and help residents thrive in Gulfton-Sharpstown with action steps toward projects, policies, and programs that will improve the community’s quality of life.
Strategies in the action plan identify the role that Connect Community, as the community quarterback will play, which actors should be involved, as well as potential funding sources and partnership opportunities. Furthermore, Connect Community has identified four priority projects for the initial two years that include: Pursuing enhanced mobility options to and from the area’s high-frequency transit network and destinations to enhance the safety and convenience of the first and last mile of trips; the development of a high-comfort bikeway on Westward and High Star streets that would connect numerous community services, schools, and the Hillcroft transit station; strengthening Gulfton-Sharpstown as a cultural-cuisine destination by bolstering restauranteurs in the area through a kitchen incubator program; and pursuing the re-design of a multicultural community center campus as the neighborhood’s signature public space at the southwest multi-service center with a park, mixed income housing and mixed use development, public parking, and connected to through a redesigned pedestrian realm and bikeway on High Star.