Marla Torrado

Marla Torrado
Location: Austin, Texas Cohort Start Year: 2018 Project Topics: Built Environment/Housing/Planning, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Food Systems and Nutrition, Obesity, Public, Population and Community Health Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Children and Families, Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Low-Income Communities
Planning Director
Community Powered Workshop

Marla believes in the power of communities and their place-based projects to generate lasting, meaningful impact. As a Puerto Rican woman living in the U.S., creating opportunities that result in more equitable and just cities is her passion. Working on affordable housing issues in Austin, Texas, she understands firsthand how many low-income families are burdened by housing costs, affecting their ability to access other essential goods and services like healthy foods. Additionally, these households often travel far to find these services, creating a cycle of resource outflow that neglects local investment. She hopes this opportunity allows her to make strong connections between the affordable housing sector, healthy food retail, and small minority-owned businesses in historically under-resourced neighborhoods. Her vision is to support community services while strengthening place-based investments that are for and by neighborhoods.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Establish a Commercial Community Land Trust to Support Small-scale, Minority-owned Businesses in Austin, Texas
My strategic initiative focuses on the development and preservation of small-scale, minority-owned businesses through the creation of a commercial community land trust (C-CLT) model that can provide access to affordable rental space throughout Austin, Texas. Not much discussion is currently taking place in our city regarding the displacement of small-scale and minority-owned businesses, how gentrification is affecting them, and what actions are needed to change this. The objective of my strategic initiative is to create a network with the necessary partners to develop a C-CLT model that can potentially be replicated in other cities. The ideal partners for my initiative include local CDFI organizations, University of Texas Law researchers, business owners of color, nonprofits with housing CLT expertise, various chamber of commerce members, and relevant departments from the city of Austin (housing, economic development, and planning). Some of these are already confirmed.

Marla enjoys learning about new topics and meeting people who are interested in and passionate about making systemic changes in their communities. Her experience working with communities internationally makes her appreciate the importance of local stories, collaborative work, and equity, all essential components for thriving healthy communities.

Click here to watch Marla’s Legacy Project video.