The “Empowerment by Design: Brownsville West Rail Trail Corridor Studio” was an advanced studio and planning practicum collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and Texas Southmost College (TSC), which studied the potential transformations of an eight-mile abandoned railroad corridor in the City of Brownsville, Texas as a vision for a new city place. The core purpose of this course was to address social justice in the design of the 21st century American city by working directly with community stakeholders to address the future redevelopment of a politically contentious site. The studio studied potential transformations of this vector as catalyst for social and economic change, and the significant impact that access to hike and bike infrastructure has in addressing mobility, health, and economic development as an extension into the downtown and the wider city context.
The corridor, located on the south Texas border, runs parallel to the Rio Grande River and the U.S.-Border Wall, and links to both economically deprived and affluent neighborhoods directly to the historic downtown. The corridor terminates at a U.S.-Mexico international crossing bridge, the original crossing for rail freight traffic in Brownsville, which has the potential to become a new bi-national hike and bike linkage across the border.
Over the course of one semester, UTSOA and TSC students met with community members, local planning entities, and key stakeholders to help drive the planning and design strategies. At the end of the semester, the teams presented four master plan strategies in the public forum.
The final report may be found here.