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Creating a “Bazaar” in Gulfton

Partners include Connect Community & AARP

HOUSTON, TX (May 19, 2022) – Today, Associates UltraBarrio announces it was named one of 25 recipients of the 2022 Design Awards hosted by Texas Society of Architects, for their project “Roaming Cart-Ographies,” a civic design that amplifies the inherent entrepreneurism in Gulfton. 

Gulfton, often referred to as the Ellis Island of Houston, is a cultural hub with immigrants arriving from all over the world. Within 3.2 sq. miles, there are over 80 apartment complexes that were originally built for a majority young and single population during the oil boom. In the 1980s during the oil bust in Houston, the apartment complexes transitioned from an up and coming singles hub to a family destination for those immigrating to the United States. With the sudden change in demographics came challenges to the infrastructure of the neighborhood, mainly high density and a neighborhood with little space for families to recreate. 

UltraBarrio, a Houston based Urban Design and Architecture firm, saw an opportunity to use design to address the challenges of the neighborhood by creating more touch points for community building, while also capitalizing on the inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the residents. 

“Together with Connect, this project celebrates Gulfton’s dense urban patchwork.” said Amna Ansari, AIA, Partner at UltraBarrio. “Through craft, color and design we created vibrant spaces for residents and visitors to come together and acknowledge all of the things that make Gulfton great – a neighborhood which we share roots within.” 

Connect Community, a local non-profit based in the Gulfton/Sharpstown community that works predominantly with the resident immigrant and refugee population, partnered with UltraBarrio to find ways to integrate the culture and practices of the residents’ home countries. Inspired by “bazaars” from around the world, UltraBarrio and Connect Community created reusable mobile carts that are being used for events, markets, and community gatherings.

“We absolutely love these colorful and versatile carts that are reflective of the diverse and youthful energy of the neighborhood,” said Anne Whitlock, Founding Director of Connect Community. “Designed with the user in mind, these carts are easily rolled out and can be used as pop-up libraries, plant and herb workshops or vendor kiosks at community fairs. The possibilities are endless!”

Funded by AARP, an emphasis was placed on transforming underutilized street side spaces into multi-generational, people-centered spaces. Many residents in Gulfton live in cramped apartments with grandparents, parents and children often living under one roof. By providing more opportunities for families to gather, the “Roaming Cart-Ographies” increases cross-cultural and cross-generational knowledge sharing and social connection. 

“AARP Texas is proud to support organizations like Connect Community via the Community Challenge Grants to continue helping Texas communities become even greater places for people of all backgrounds, abilities and ages, especially Texans age 50-plus,said Rosalinda Martinez, who leads the Association’s work in Texas communities. “Quick-action projects can lead to very tangible and long-lasting improvements, and this can be seen in exciting projects like the roaming cart-ographies.” 

To find more information on past grantees and apply, visit

For our third Connect Community Day, we will partner with Ashford Crescent Oaks and St. Luke’s Gethsemane Church in July to host an outdoor movie night on the grass, complete with popcorn, candy and drinks using our AARP-funded carts! All are welcome. 

To learn more, contact Anitha Muthu at

About Associates UltraBarrio: 

Associates UltraBarrio is an award-winning Urban Design and Architecture practice, with a central goal to shape cities to be more civic, sustainable, and generationally connected by design.

About Connect Community: 

My Connect Community (“Connect”) is a place-based community development nonprofit in the vibrant and diverse Houston neighborhood of Gulfton/ Sharpstown. Connect works alongside residents and organizations to amplify community voices, spark innovation and accelerate human potential. It is a network member of the national Purpose Built Communities model and builds mixed-income housing, a high quality cradle through career education pipeline and wraparound community wellness services. Connect’s mission is to ensure that every child and adult in Sharpstown/ Gulfton will lead a healthy, prosperous life in a safe and vibrant neighborhood in which residents choose to live, learn, work, worship and play.

About AARP: 

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit, or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.

Media Contact: 

Name: Anitha Muthu

Organization: Connect Community 


Phone Number: 908-914-1079

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