The Plaza Amistad model focuses on the “working poor,” people who take in about $40,000 per year per family of four. It is believed they have enough income to support such a community, while also benefitting from affordable community services.
The plaza is located next to entry-level housing, while the project’s farmer’s market will also bring people together across class lines. Population growth projections suggest the area near Plaza Amistad will grow.
“It’s a different vision, and I think it is something God will bless,” said the bishop. “With the hard work of a lot of people, I think it could be a model for the whole country.”
Miguel Santos, director of strategic planning for the Brownsville diocese, said Plaza Amistad is based on “the premise of human dignity, of both solidarity and subsidiarity, of not just giving them a handout but a hand up.”
There could be a Catholic church and parish in the future, second phase of the project.
“We will have a chapel,” Bishop Flores said. “It will be a place to let the Church do what I think the Church does best, which is gather people in the knowledge of the love of God, and in the love of neighbor.”
For the bishop, it is natural that the Church gathers her people and then “opens up the doors, as the Holy Father Pope Francis says, so that we can welcome.”
“For the beauty of what it is to be human is that we were meant to live in community and not isolated,” Flores added.
The diocese is the leading agent in the public-private partnership.
Santos said that while the diocese has provided an initial outlay of funding, “the idea is to partner with different entities that can bring to the table their particular expertise.”
“Our interest is to partner with different institutions who can each be responsible for the operations of their specific part of the project,” he said.
(Story continues below)
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Fifteen college sophomores are helping design commercial and medical architectural portions of the plaza, according to Jim Glusing, a civil and architectural engineering professor and director of the Institute for Architectural Engineering Heritage at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Parts of their proposals could be considered for inclusion in the final design.
Kyndel Bennett, a member of the traditionally Methodist Bonham family, said he thought the project was “a win-win for all involved.”
“It is a project we are all excited about,” Bennett said.
This article was first published Dec. 2, 2017.