Unveiled: Lubbock's High Cotton 'Tent City' Vision Plan

Image by HiWorks Architecture and Urbanist Design

Image by HiWorks Architecture and Urbanist Design

Over the last several months, we've been working with HiWorks Architecture and Urbanist Design from San Antonio on a vision plan for the future of High Cotton, a homeless assistance facility located in Lubbock, Texas. This past Friday, the vision plan was unveiled by project partner Urban Tech at Lubbock's First Friday Art Trail event.

"Tent City." 

What does this term evoke? An image of homeless sleeping under a bridge in makeshift cardboard structures, or perhaps one of the hoovervilles from the 1930's? Whatever image it conjures, tent cities don't exactly seem like the ideal place to be. But for the homeless population of Lubbock, Texas, that's exactly what Tent City is. Opened in 2011, High Cotton is Lubbock's version of one of the most unique homeless assistance centers in the nation, given the nickname of "tent city" because of the use of army surplus "modular command post" tents arranged in grid. 


High Cotton site and proposed site plan. Image by Studio Outside.

Managed by Link Ministries, High Cotton is located just east of downtown on the site of a former cotton gin. The expansive and historic existing structure is useful for sheltering on particularly bad-weather days, but most of the time Tent City residents are happy to stay in the tents, individual 11'X11' units that allow the resident a little space to call their own. The tents provide some security and privacy, while avoiding the potential shock or confusion created by bringing the residents immediately indoors into the air conditioning, which is a matter of practice for most homeless centers. At its heart, High Cotton is a transitional facility.

Every day I get at least one call from a potential resident that I have to turn down because we’re at capacity and have a waiting list. It’s a good sign that our services are helping people in the community, but it’s also a sign that it’s time to grow.
— Les Burrus, Link Ministries Director

But Les Burrus, director of Link Ministries, has bigger aspirations for High Cotton. Knowing the opportunity for the Tent City concept to grow and become something greater, Burrus gathered a board of directors known as the "High Cotton Core" who would lead the expansion and visioning effort. The Core then reached out to Studio Outside Landscape Architects (us) and architects HiWorks and Urbanist Design to collaborate and present a vision plan.

Along with logistical and practical needs such as more restrooms, laundry facilities, and a kitchen, High Cotton is in need of an experiential transformation - from a barren, unwelcoming site into a more peaceful, hopeful place with plenty of resources to get residents back on their feet.

We're excited about the unveiling of this vision for not only the homeless in Lubbock, but also for the community and region as a whole. Link Ministries will continue to work to see their vision complete, making the future a bit brighter for the people who need help the most. 

High Cotton Vision Aerial by HiWorks Architecture and Urbanist Design. 

High Cotton Vision Aerial by HiWorks Architecture and Urbanist Design.