Youth Leadership Team Members Participate in UVa Ecological Democracy Class to Develop Solutions in the Friendship Court Redevelopment Process

Youth Leadership Team Ecological DemocracySeven eager members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team (YLT) spent the spring semester engaging with UVa students in a class at the UVa School of Architecture called Ecological Democracy. The term ecological democracy was originally coined by Professor Randolph T. Hester from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. Its main tenet is that community resilience “can be built through direct contact with the social and ecological processes that impact the built world, and that communities are stronger when co-powered to drive decision-making processes themselves.” Addy, Daemond, Emilee, Jarvis, Javisha, Justin, and Tyquan are the YLT members who are beginning to engage in decision-making regarding their community through this process.

The Ecological Democracy course was developed and led by Barbara Brown-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, with master plan design team member Liz Ogbu as a visiting professor. Several graduate students also planned biweekly dialogues with the YLT members. The dialogues began as an exercise to get to know and trust each other and evolved to in-depth discussions and planning to address potential “opportunity areas” for improvement within the Friendship Court community.

The dialogue groups met once or twice a week, usually at UVa.

Katie Deal was a participating student whose interdisciplinary major focused on public and private partnerships that develop equitable models for affordable housing. “In order to develop solutions that fit the community, you need to talk to the stakeholders first to really understand what their day-to-day life is like,” Katie said. “We knew that we could do this with the Youth Leadership Team to learn best practices for human-centered design.”

Youth Leadership Team with students discussing

Human-centered design should ultimately create solutions that work well for everyone involved in the process, and should provide opportunities for those being directly impacted by the design to express their perspective and concerns. This type of design takes longer than the traditional design process and requires flexibility from all parties involved.

The students discussed design challenges, potential areas for improvement, and possible design solutions. The workshops included mapping exercises and brainstorming sessions along with intuitive design tools to visualize possibilities and to stimulate conversation and creativity as the students were asked to reflect on the design and evaluation process.

Through these exercises, the youth came to recognize the opportunity areas in their community. They identified five potential projects in the collaborative design workshops and narrowed those down to two through feedback and a vote. Through several design brainstorming sessions independently led by the UVa students in collaboration with the YLT members, these two opportunity areas were then developed into potential quick-win design solutions.

Youth Leadership Team class participatingOver the four months of collaborative effort, the group came up with both short-term and long-term quick-win goals designed to solve each problem identified by the YLT members. Some of the ideas included:

  • Creating a space for relaxation and community gathering, which could include benches and planters around the courtyards
  • Improving the basketball court area
  • Making enhancements to the fence, including opening of the gates all the time, beautifying the area if the fences are not taken down and ultimately taking down the fence

The quick wins are important elements of the redevelopment process as they help provide the youth with a sense of excitement and more immediate visible accomplishments during the longer redevelopment process. In addition, these wins teach them how to use basic strategies and tools to continue community improvement and support into the future. To read more about all the quick-win opportunities and the class, see the course evaluation put together by the students at the end of the class.

This collaboration between the youth at Friendship Court and the faculty and students at the University of Virginia is helping create a supportive platform for improving the quality of life of residents during the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The partnership and leadership program started in 2016 and will continue through 2018. The Youth Leadership Team is designed to involve the youth through mentorship, resources, and coordination. In addition to their sustainable land-use curriculum, the youth have participated in financial management courses, resume writing workshops, interview preparation sessions, and field trips.

We look forward to hearing more throughout the redevelopment process from the Youth Leadership Team about their role in helping create a more inclusive and improved community at Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team class

 

Friendship Court Resident Angela Brooks Becomes Newest Member of the Advisory Committee

Angela Brooks

Angela Brooks is a young mom with two teenaged sons. Friendship Court has been her home for more than fifteen years, and she’s seen a lot of changes in that time. “It’s definitely gotten better,” she says, “but there’s room for improvement.” That’s why Angela joined two committees focused on staying informed and providing input throughout redevelopment. An active member of the Residents’ Association, Angela volunteered to join the Advisory Committee as well. “I want to see what’s going on and stay informed. I want all the residents to be treated equally. I can help reassure other people in the neighborhood if I’m getting information firsthand instead of second- or third-hand.”

Angela works as a teacher of two-and-a-half to three-year-old children at Park Street Christian Preschool by day and cleans office buildings at night, leaving her little free time. It is noteworthy, then, that Angela chooses to spend some of that time attending meetings and making connections with community stakeholders involved in Friendship Court’s redevelopment.

“I think redevelopment is going to help the community be a friendlier, calmer place and a good place to call home. I’m looking forward to all the improvements to the apartments,” she said.

We’re delighted to have another long-term Friendship Court resident contributing to the redevelopment conversation. Welcome, Angela!

Welcome to Jessica Eldridge, Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court

Jessica Eldridge photo blog

Jessica Eldridge is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court.  Jessica’s specific role will be to coordinate and support children’s after school activities and resident engagement. Jessica will also be working with the various community partners at the center to continue providing family resources and support to the residents of Friendship Court. Jessica has programming experience working with youth at the James River Boys and Girls Club and will be a wonderful complement to the team, working with Community Organizer, Claudette Grant and Community Outreach Assistant, Sheri Hopper.

“I’m looking forward to creating some fun, engaging and educational activities for the kids as well as helping where I can,” says Jessica.

We are excited to welcome Jessica to our team.

UACC Kicks Off the Season with Market Days

UACC pano
The community garden at Friendship Court is just about to pop with summer fruits and vegetables.  This community garden, as well as several others around Charlottesville, are managed by the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC), a grassroots organization that promotes social equity through collective gardening and produce distribution. UACC is the continuation of an urban agriculture project called QCC Farms, started by the Quality Community Council (QCC). The idea for QCC Farms began with a group of residents at Friendship Court and 6th Street who were looking for a way to bridge the social barriers between their communities. The project started with a series of community conversations which culminated in breaking ground at the Friendship Court Garden in May of 2007 and the 6th Street garden in June. When QCC disbanded in 2011, committed local residents and volunteers formed UACC to continue the valuable work of bringing community members together through urban agriculture.Toni at UACC garden at Friendship Court

Toni Eubanks is one of several board members of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and has been volunteering her time to work in the garden for many years now.  Toni says she became interested in learning what was happening in her new backyard, and that’s when she approached Todd Niemeier, better known as “Farmer Todd,” to see how she could get involved. Toni adds, “Throughout the year, the garden helps engage the community and provide fresh produce to those that can’t afford it. People get to learn about plants and gardening, but it’s also a way to bring our diverse community together.”

UACC conducts many programs to help teach people about community collaboration and leadership, but a big part of what they do is distribute produce free of charge using a time-based, alternative currency called farm tokens. When someone volunteers in one of the UACC gardens, they earn a wooden farm token for every half hour of service. Volunteers can then use theirs farm tokens or share them with neighbors. Farm tokens are exchanged for garden produce at weekly, volunteer-operated distribution events called market days. During each growing season, UACC conducts 20 to 24 market days all held in community centers or on lawns in the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls, 6th Street, and South 1st Street communities. Depending on the time of year, one farm token is worth a bag of vegetables that would cost roughly $15 to $30 in the grocery store. Market days also serve as a place where people can share information and make connections. Guest chefs offer cooking demos and share recipes made with the weekly harvest. Other community organizations come from time to time as well to share information about upcoming events and happenings in the neighborhood.

Anyone in the neighborhood can volunteer in the community gardens which helps promote neighborhood engagement. With over 600 volunteers, comprised of both adults and youth, the gardens provide a great way to grow and share healthful food together, along while creating a strong foundation upon which to build a healthier community.  The Youth Leadership Team worked together with Farmer Todd last fall over several sessions to learn more about the Friendship Court Community Garden and envision and sketch what the new garden could look like after the redevelopment process.  While he doesn’t know exactly what form the garden will take in the future, Todd says he has started doing some research around the idea of creating rooftop gardens and that feasibility for the Friendship Court Community. While keeping affordable housing at the forefront, he still hopes that through careful research and open dialogue, the future garden will start to take shape.

UACC garden

For more information or to volunteer at one of the gardens, see UACC’s website.

And here is a detailed map of the Friendship Court Community Orchard.

The next market day is this Friday, June 16th at Friendship Court at 4PM.

Youth Leadership Team Tours the Architecture School at UVa and Makes Their Own 3-D Models

YLT Group picture at Architecture school

This past spring, the Youth Leadership Team was invited by the National Organization of Minority Architects local chapter to tour UVa’s School of Architecture. Professor Elgin Cleckley organized and led the tour with several of his students. Elgin is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design Thinking at the University of Virginia, School of Architecture and teaches Design Thinking studios and foundation courses at the School of Architecture, with appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing.

Tyquan and Elgin working on model

YLT tours A School

One of Professor Cleckley’s architecture school students began the tour with an introduction and overview of the school and its programs, providing the youth with insight into the work that goes on there.  Once inside, they were led through the current art exhibit of UVa alumnus, Carlton Abbott, viewing a collection of drawings that were created during his career which has spanned over fifty years.  The drawings depicted a range of subjects from housing to large urban projects.  Then, the youth explored downstairs starting with a tour of the wood shop. With lots of end of the year projects being completed, they were able to see some students’ work being finalized in time for May’s graduation.  Then, the students were introduced to printing and toured the CNC Lab where they learned the different ways one can print using a CNC machine. There, they saw how 3-D models really begin to take shape.  These fabrication facilities are called the SARC Shops which are in a consortium with the Arts Grounds Shops that include the Scene Shops at the Drama Department and the Shops at McIntire Department of Art. The students learned they are laboratories for thinking through making both in the analog and the digital realm.

3-D printing YLT

After a quick view of one of the computer facilities, the final part of the tour took the youth through the architecture school studios.  At UVa’s School of Architecture this place is located on and encompasses most of the third and fourth floors of Campbell Hall.  It consists of very open and collaborative spaces where students can discuss ideas together and help formulate the ultimate design work they produce.  Several architecture students shared their projects with the youth and explained their 3-D modelling systems.  The youth leaders showed much interest in these 3-D models and just a few short weeks later, were invited back by Professor Cleckley and his students to enjoy a more hands-on experience.  During that second visit, the Friendship Court youth members put their creative minds to work, creating their very own 3-D models working together in the studios and getting a glimpse into the life of a UVA architecture student. They all seemed to really enjoy the hands-on experience of getting to use tools and create their own models.

Thank you to Professor Barbara Brown Wilson for her support and commitment in making sure the tour and hands-on experience happened for the youth leaders.

PHA YLT models collage

Jeanetha Brown-Douglas with JBD Mobile Catering Serving Up Nutrition and Building Community with the Kids at Friendship Court

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner singleThanks to community grants and donor support, Piedmont Housing Alliance is able to work with Jeanetha Brown-Douglas of JBD Mobile Catering to bring healthful, delicious meals to Friendship Court twice a week. This community meal schedule complements the community center afterschool activity and snack program and the Parks & Recreation enrichment program offerings. More than half of all Friendship Court residents are children (most under the age of 12). Nutrition is important to healthy development, but on an average household budget of less than $11,000, food budgets are tight. Jeanetha helps support nutrition and community building. Jeanetha also provides a great example of the creation and growth of a successful small woman-owned business. Piedmont Housing Alliance has worked with JBD Catering after Jeanetha participated in Piedmont Housing Alliance’s VIDA program, which helped her grow her savings and her business. She graduated from CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), a local business education program offering under-resourced local entrepreneurs education, micro-loans, mentoring, and networking. Since her first contract, Jeanetha has received other contracts and continues to build her catering business. She is also proud to work with the City of Charlottesville’s Onesty Family Aquatic Center (Meade Pool) to provide healthy snacks to the children and families who frequent the center over the summer months. Jeanetha says, “I love to give back to the kids!”

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kidsHaving an adequate meal is vital for nutrition, but it is also a way to connect Friendship Court children to community, technology, education, and health.

JBD Mobile Catering helping feed the kids a hot and healthy meal is helping lay the foundation for a successful future of Friendship Court.

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kids 2Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner kids 2

Master Plan Digest: Proposed Site Plan

Our design team’s site plan recommendations for redevelopment at Friendship Court were shaped by a variety of issues and concerns for current and future residents, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the financial realities of redevelopment.

Below, you’ll see some of the considerations that influenced the proposed number of buildings, their size, and placement on the site. As the design process moves forward, the details of these areas will be more fully defined.

What we heard: Residents believe that mixed-income redevelopment may mean access to additional opportunities for their children.
What we propose: Introduce amenities and services throughout the site.

What we heard: More than 50% of current residents are under 18. Kids at Friendship Court start school two years behind their peers in learning skills.
What we propose: Create a world-class Early Childhood Center that not only serves Friendship Court but also the surrounding areas.

What we found out: We can’t build over Pollocks Branch, and it would cost too much to move it.
What we propose: Organize buildings around the underground channel so that Pollocks Branch can run through the side unimpeded.

What we heard: Existing courtyards cater mainly to young children.
What we propose: Create courtyards with discrete, secure spaces that serve a diversity of users. Include amenities such as grills and plants.

What we heard: The community garden has a long history within the community.
What we propose: Relocate the garden to honor the “no displacement of current residents” pledge, but give it a place of prominence as part of the new public green.

* * *

What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine the decision-making process for green infrastructure on the site.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Proposed Site Plan)

Master Plan Digest: Amenities for Residents and Neighbors

The site design for redevelopment will provide indoor and outdoor amenities for residents as well as for people who don’t live in Friendship Court. The outdoor activities residents asked for require a variety of settings—semi-private internal courtyards, sidewalks and pathways where people can run into each other, and a single green “commons” large enough for the entire community to gather.

A large park will provide open space for recreational and passive uses for both residents and neighbors, while courtyards will provide private outdoor space for residents (many of whom expressed preference for private outdoor space in addition to public shared space). These courtyards will feature private patio space for residential units abutting the courtyard and shared patio spaces for all building residents. These areas will be able to accommodate garden plots and outdoor grilling facilities.

Some buildings may feature rooftop amenity decks where residents will have access to tables, gardens and views of the area. Courtyards and decks will be accessible only to tenants and located behind gates requiring keys. The interiors of the new buildings will also feature amenities including lobbies for residential tenants and an indoor recreation facility or basketball court.

The park will be designed to accommodate a variety of uses that stakeholders have suggested, including the relocation of urban agriculture, outdoor basketball courts and open green space. This area is located adjacent to the residential neighborhoods to the east in order to become a central place of connection for residents and neighbors.

* * *

What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll review some of the key issues that shaped the proposed site plan.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Amenities)

Master Plan Digest: Decision Pathway — Parking

The Master Plan for redevelopment at Friendship Court calls for “podium” parking structures to be located below the new buildings. It’s not the easiest or least expensive parking option, so why did we choose it? Below, you’ll see the research and analysis that led to this design decision.

Who/what we engaged

  • Friendship Court Residents
  • City staff
  • Charlottesville Parking Study
  • SIA Plan
  • Examples from other low-income housing projects (e.g., Choice Neighborhoods)

What we learned

  • Current residents are concerned with safety related to parking.
  • Some residents expressed concern about the safety of below-grade parking.
  • Residents of every age prefer having “open space” to surface parking.
  • Several neighbors expressed strong preferences for housing, retail, community services, or other activities lining streets surrounding or crossing the site.
  • The SIA calls for a continuous greenway across the Friendship Court site.

What that tells us

  • Despite its lower cost, surface parking does not represent an acceptable strategy because it would drastically reduce the amount of open space available for residents.
  • Evidence indicates that secure structured above- or below-grade parking—with “keyed” entry, security cameras, good management and direct keyed elevator access to apartments located above—does not present safety issues.
  • Curbside parking along Fourth Street and Hinton Ave would make it more convenient to visit residents, retail, the Early Childhood Center and other services on the site.

Possible Options

OPTION 1: Surface Parking

  • Least expensive
  • Requires 30-40% of the entire site
  • Max of 10% of site free for open space
  • Less open space than existing layout
  • May push more parking to nearby streets

OPTION 2: Above-Grade Parking Structure

  • 20-25% of site free for open space
  • Open space would be less than half of what currently exist
  • No ability to have courtyards

OPTION 3: Single-Level Parking Podium

  • 25-35% of site free for open space
  • Housing and courtyards built on top of parking structure
  • Ground-floor units facing courtyard could have doors open onto it
  • Courtyards would be one level above street
  • Could make each unit complex more separate
  • May increase building heights

OPTION 4: Partial or Fully Below-Grade Structured Parking

  • More than 35% of site free for open space
  • Takes advantage of the site’s slope
  • Enables more units to have front doors on the street and courtyards
  • Courtyards would be at street level (with secured access)

What We Chose and Why

PARTIAL OR FULLY BELOW-GRADE STRUCTURED PARKING

  • Allows us to maximize open space and keep valued amenities (e.g., UACC garden) while addressing residential parking needs
  • Provides parking for additional needs such as visitors, retail, and Early Childhood Center
  • Gives us some flexibility with regards to building height
  • Creates a secured parking zone

* * *

What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look at the proposed amenities for Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Decision Pathway – Parking)

Master Plan Digest: Parking Solutions for a Mixed-Use Urban Site

Parking requirements are debated for every urban development. With a truly urban site in a dense, walkable context, the proposed redevelopment at Friendship Court strives to create pleasant and accessible connections across the site and to the surrounding city. This means creating new pedestrian and vehicular streets and tucking parking under buildings.

In general, meeting the goal of creating a feasible mixed-income community that supports families at every income level will be challenging. Parking requirements could make it even more difficult. The cost of a typical underground parking space can reach $30,000, meaning that every 10 parking spaces cost as much as three affordable or workforce housing units. Having fewer parking spaces translates into more affordable housing.

Working with the City will be crucial to rethinking parking requirements for the project. Many solutions appear in the SIA study, the RCLCO Housing Study and the most recent parking study commissioned by the City. Among solutions to be considered are parking reductions for provisions of affordable units; on-site permit parking on newly created streets; shared parking; reserved car-share spaces; and bike facilities.

A mixed-income development that preserves 150 Section 8 units poses a far greater challenge than providing parking for the 150 existing households—or for more conventional infill development on other sites in downtown. With significantly more cars to handle, it rules out surface parking as an option.

The development goals create a set of unique opportunities and challenges for accommodating—and paying for—parking facilities not present for any other comparably sized development in or near Charlottesville.

The Master Plan vision of 600 units would need:

  • 600 spaces located in “podium” parking located partially below-grade.
  • A minimum of 50-60 curbside spaces to serve visitors, retail, the Early Childhood Center and / or other similar services and users.
  • Additional spaces required for employee, retail, or other parking provided by shared use of available residential parking spaces.

Podium parking, located partially below-grade, should satisfy these conditions:

  • Build the parking structure deep enough to keep the floor level of ground-floor housing built on top of it three to four feet above the adjacent sidewalk level. At that height, a stoop and steps allow reasonable access to the unit.
  • Use landscaping and architectural elements to shield parking from the view of passersby; wherever possible, avoid creating blank walls.
  • Incorporate light and air-wells into courtyards located above parking; use landscaping and design to avoid opening views directly into the parking.
  • Minimize construction and operating costs by:
    > limiting parking to one level;
    > limiting the need for internal access ramps and, where possible, keeping ramp slopes below 5% so that ramps can accommodate parking; and
    > providing a single vehicle entry/exit for each “block” where possible

* * *

What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a closer look at why we chose structured parking instead of another parking option.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Parking Solutions)