The City of Houston uses brownfield redevelopment as a vehicle to clean up Houston’s idle and hazardous properties, addressing historic environmental justice concerns, climate change, and economic development in underserved communities. To build upon existing brownfield redevelopment efforts, the City of Houston will partner with FUSE Corps to develop a suite of brownfield redevelopment projects focused on climate change mitigation and clean energy.
This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.
In early 2020, the City of Houston released their first comprehensive resilience strategy, Resilient Houston, and their first Climate Action Plan. The city’s resilience planning efforts have been focused on equity and inclusion, health and safety, infrastructure and the economy, housing and mobility, and water and climate. Resilient Houston identifies specific goals, actions, and implementation opportunities that address the city’s most pressing shocks and stresses, including flooding, extreme heat, climate change, land use, and urban sprawl. These recommendations also include improving environmental justice by addressing environmental degradation, poor air and water quality, and hazardous materials incidents, like Houston’s history of chemical fires. Resilient Houston will support better health, safety, and quality of life for all Houstonians.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the city recognized that the crisis was exacerbating many of the previously identified shocks and stresses, especially those that disproportionately affect Black and Latino populations and those living in historically underinvested neighborhoods. These Houstonians, over time, have been exposed to a range of environmental hazards, including polluted air, hazardous waste, and contaminated water – all of which have contributed to a disproportionate number of these residents contracting the virus. In response to this, a Covid-19 addendum was added to the Resilient Houston strategy, acting as a framework for a resilient, equitable, and sustainable Covid-19 recovery.
The Resilient Houston strategy also coincides with Mayor Turner’s investment in these communities through the Complete Communities Initiative. This citywide initiative works to revitalize Houston’s most under-resourced neighborhoods through ongoing resilience-building efforts to create a more equitable and prosperous city for all residents. Both the city’s Climate Action Plan and Complete Communities Initiative emphasize finding innovative, public-private solutions to address historic environmental justice concerns, climate change, and economic development in underserved communities. Brownfield redevelopment is one vehicle the city employs to do just this. Brownfield redevelopment works to clean up Houston’s idle and hazardous properties, revitalizing Houston’s underserved and blighted neighborhoods. Most recently, the city approved the Sunnyside Solar Project – an innovative public-private partnership that will convert a 240-acre closed landfill In Sunnyside into the largest brownfield solar installation in the nation.
To support these existing brownfield redevelopment efforts, the City of Houston will partner with FUSE Corps to develop a suite of brownfield redevelopment projects focused on climate change mitigation and clean energy. The FUSE Executive Fellow will lay out a framework that prioritizes these projects, focusing on phasing redevelopment to have the most impact in each of the Complete Communities neighborhoods. The Executive Fellow will simultaneously support implementing one or two redevelopment projects that are already in progress. At the conclusion of the year, the city will have advanced existing and new brownfield redevelopment projects, assisting in revitalizing economically distressed neighborhoods in Houston’s urban core, catalyzing economic growth, and ensuring a safe and clean environment.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in April 2022, it is proposed the FUSE Executive Fellow will conduct an initial listening tour with critical stakeholders, including city staff involved in Brownfield redevelopment (Public Works, Housing, Office of Complete Communities, and Sustainability and Resilience), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and community-based organizations and community members. The Executive Fellow will utilize these conversations to gain a comprehensive understanding of how brownfield sites affect various neighborhoods and Houstonian’s health and safety. The Executive Fellow will review progress made on brownfield redevelopment to date, consolidating multiple assessments (such as the Brownfields Strategic Plan and Brownfield Sites Inventory), and embedding updates as necessary. The Executive Fellow will also conduct an in-depth review of the Sunnyside Solar Project, analyzing relevant data, extracting best practices, and determining lessons learned from this community solar project.
Utilizing the Brownfield Sites Inventory, the Executive Fellow will develop a portfolio of redevelopment projects focused on climate change mitigation and clean energy. These projects will take into account the unique environmental concerns, equity indicators, and historical environmental injustices faced by each neighborhood. The Executive Fellow will outline a project pipeline with phased implementation, concentrating projects for immediate implementation in areas facing high climate change risks and equity vulnerabilities. The Executive Fellow will build consensus among all stakeholders for the prioritized projects and then lead the implementation of one to two redevelopments. This will include pooling funding sources, such as leading the application for private sources such as the C40 Reinventing Cities Competition, and developing compelling proof of concept narratives to share the success of clean energy brownfield redevelopment sites with state and national regulators.
At the conclusion of the fellowship year, the city will have advanced existing and new projects to redevelop present brownfield sites, improving quality of life for Houston residents, and creating thriving, livable neighborhoods in this world-class city.
- Landscape analysis of current brownfield redevelopment through engagement with key stakeholders – Conduct interviews with key stakeholders; understand progress to date, planning efforts, and existing recommendations; tweak assessments based on new equity mapping completed by the city and any known implications from the Covid-19 pandemic; review Sunnyside Solar Project, determine best practices, lessons learned, and barriers to scaling community solar projects elsewhere in Houston
- Formulate a portfolio of neighborhood-based redevelopment projects – Identify a pipeline of clean energy, community solar, or general climate change mitigation redevelopment projects for each brownfield site in Houston; form context-sensitive projects that will have the most impact on the needs of those specific communities/neighborhoods; create a prioritization framework, mapping phases for which sites to redevelop and when; build buy-in among stakeholders for the types of redevelopment projects and the timeline of implementation
- Oversee implementation of pressing initiatives and support the pipeline’s longevity – Lead implementation of pre-established initiatives in complete communities neighborhoods, such as redeveloping the landfill in the Southwest for flood mitigation and stormwater deflection; identify clear roles for city staff and external partners, assess the financial resources that are needed to sustain these actions; develop case studies and narratives to show proof of concept of the pipeline of projects to state and federal regulators, supporting potentially monetary investments
- Executive Sponsor – Priya Zachariah, Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer, Office of Resilience and Sustainability
- Project Supervisor – Laura Patino, Deputy Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer, Office of Resilience and Sustainability
- Thomas Pommier, Coordinator – Climate Action Plan, Office of Resilience and Sustainability
- Carol Haddock, Director, Houston Public Works
- Shannon Buggs, Director of Complete Communities, Mayor’s Office
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong passion for environmental justice
- Background in brownfield redevelopment highly preferred
- Robust success developing and implementing programs from start to finish
- Strong project management skills
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills, creating consensus among varying groups to transform processes and implement multi-year projects
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, ability to create compelling narratives to gain buy-in from stakeholders
- Proven ability to gather, synthesize, and analyze data
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
- Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
- A self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity