Ava Moncrieffe: Helping Social Justice Orgs ‘Build’ Permanence

04 Mar Ava Moncrieffe: Helping Social Justice Orgs ‘Build’ Permanence

By Marsha Mitchell, Senior Director of Communications

This year’s Women’s History Month (WHM) theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.”  WHM’s purpose is to celebrate and elevate the influence of women on everything from architecture, literature, and fashion to the politics, policy, and power that have helped shape our country and cultural movements. One such influencer is Ava Moncrieffe, whose unwavering commitment to helping build permanence for BIPOC social justice organizations, like Community Coalition (CoCo), has revolutionized movement work. Ava Moncrieffe has profoundly impacted the architectural landscape in Los Angeles and New York, and her unique approach has left a lasting legacy on CoCo. 

“Ava Moncrieffe’s leadership in constructing Community Coalition into a permanent community institution has been transformational for South LA. When resident leaders walk through the front door, they are inspired to grow their leadership and build their organizing campaigns,” says Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, CoCo’s Executive Vice President. “CoCo has become an important marker of our progress towards building a permanent, thriving, majority Black and brown community. Once again, Ava has stepped up to help us integrate the residents’ vision into the Center for Community Organizing (CCO) architectural plans, which will primarily focus on training the next generation of organizers in majority BIPOC communities across the country.”

As the owner of Building Technics, Inc., Ms. Moncrieffe provides owner representation, construction monitoring, and property transfer surveys to real estate lenders, investors, and owners. She assists institutional owners and lenders in acquiring under-construction and existing properties. She also helps with the administration of funds through the construction process. In short, Ava is the construction consultant and guru the movement has needed to secure permanence in quickly changing corridors.

“It’s important for me to articulate to our community what making a beautiful space is about; and having it serve us well. [And] whether it’s your house, a university, or an organization like CoCo, acquiring land requires financial resources and buildings to pursue construction,” explains Ava.

She says the most impactful projects of her career have been the “I Love Brooklyn” campaign and organizing and managing an in-house construction crew of formerly incarcerated BIPOC workers. The building was a 204-unit rehab project in Fort Greene when Fort Greene was a frightening place to be. She encourages young architects to “travel as much as possible to see famous buildings and how other places tackle the built environment.”

Ava’s work ethic comes from her hardworking immigrant parents. Her father is Jamaican, born in Panama while her mother is Panamanian but grew up in Jamaica. The family moved to New York, where Ava was born. She grew up in Washington Heights, just north of Sugar Hill, a historic Manhattan neighborhood. She credits her parents for her drive and educational determination and a dear teacher named Sister Mary Basil, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

Ms. Moncrieffe went on to Cornell University, where she studied architecture and urban design and earned her degree in Architecture. As an undergraduate, she cooked for several professors’ families, including planetary scientist and NASA luminary Carl Sagan. Returning to NYC, she continued working in restaurants, including managing one of the restaurants at the World Trade Center. Once the right offer came along, she found her place in construction management and accepted a position with Tishman Realty & Construction Co. 

Ava joined Community Coalition’s Board in 1998 after meeting CoCo board member David Crippens on a cross-country flight to Florida. He explained CoCo’s mission—and Ava has been involved ever since. She was instrumental in the Community Coalition’s renovation in 2015. The complete renovation of CoCo’s current headquarters began with new windows with more glass to bring in natural light. The center of the building is open and vibrant and acts as the heart of the structure, always filled with energy and community members. The board room and People’s Hall are equipped with state-of-the-art smart boards, projectors, and walls on which to write calls to action.  

She continues to be a guiding light to CoCo as she shepherds us through the architectural process to create our Center for Community Organizing (CCO). “It’s important for the community to feel proud. When we can see that people of color can create beautiful and practical places, I believe it inspires people in our communities to move forward—it’s what I believe is important. I believe in it for Inner City Struggle (ICS) and CoCo as we move forward.” 

Ava Moncrieffe’s impact on Community Coalition’s sense of place has been nothing short of transformative. Through her visionary approach, she has helped the organization redefine our headquarters’ design, championed permanence in South LA, and inspired a new generation of both architects (Catherine Hernandez) and organizers. Her projects and philanthropic endeavors have created spaces that captivate the eye and nurture the community’s soul. Her legacy serves as a reminder that the power of buildings is just as important as the power we are building. 

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