The Carver Community Center in Navasota, Texas, once the site of the town’s African-American high school, was the scene of “Navasota Neighborhood Day,” organized Nov. 23, 2013 by Master of Urban Planning students at Texas A&M University to help the center become a more significant part of the town’s civic fabric.
The event included activities for children, a farmers’ market and booths of vendors selling locally made arts and crafts.
Officials with the local chapter of the Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers Organization, which has offices in the community center, believe its three-building site is isolated from Navasota’s downtown and want to see it become a more vital part of the community, said John Cooper, associate professor of practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, who orchestrated the students’ efforts.
The event was inspired by the tactical urbanism movement, which is characterized by small-scale interventions that help people see how simple choices can create places that facilitate community interaction and trade.
The primary design feature for the Neighborhood Day event was the creation of a temporary bike lane on West Farquhar Street, which connects the community center to Navasota’s city hall one mile away. Event participants were encouraged to use the lane to bike or walk to event.
Bikers and walkers who used the lane, said Cooper, might have noticed things along Farquhar Street more readily than a motorist.
“Folks might have realized how close the center is to downtown or how there’s a need for street improvement and sidewalks,” he said.
The community center, which includes a gym and classroom space, housed George Washington Carver High School from 1928-1968. Though the former school includes offices for the farmers’ and ranchers’ association and the school’s alumni association, much of its space goes unused on a daily basis.
The event, planted a seed for more projects in the future, said Cooper. For instance, a spring 2014 Texas A&M transportation class is going to investigate the need and potential for additional bike lanes and pedestrian pathways in Navasota.
“There are also projects in the town that could be taken on by the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, the Center for Heritage Conservation, and the College of Architecture’s design and construction science students,” he said.
Navasota Neighborhood Day was part of Texas Target Cities’ ongoing efforts in Navasota. In spring 2013, Master of Urban Planning students presented a comprehensive plan to city officials that included transportation, housing and growth projections, urban renewal and other strategies for coping with future developments.