What Is a Master Plan?
A master plan provides a long-range vision for the built environment of a community, including:
- the project goals;
- constraints and opportunities; and
- the type and possible locations of all proposed uses, from housing to commercial space to open space.
A master plan can also explore the resources needed to create a high quality project. The completed master plan makes it easier to communicate with city staff about zoning and planning issues, with regulatory agencies about policy issues, and with financial institutions about funding.
Most important, an ideal master plan helps a community talk about its vision for itself before developing specific building and landscape designs. The diagram below illustrates the community conversations that created this master plan.
The Context: What We Learned
What We Learned from Residents
Piedmont Housing and the design team heard from residents through open meetings, door-to-door canvassing, and in-home interviews. We learned:
- Many residents believe the fence around the site makes it feel like a prison.
- Dark interiors make Friendship Court apartments feel unwelcoming.
- Residents want better exterior spaces that serve multi-generational users.
- Many residents are actively looking for ways to improve their situation.
- The community garden needs to be retained as part of the development.
- The old, negative reputation of Garrett Square still affects residents.
What We Learned from Other Stakeholders
We met with a wide variety of stakeholders including Neighborhood Development Services, Virginia Housing Development Authority, Boys and Girls Club, Legal Aid Justice Center, Urban Agricultural Collective, resident associations for areas, and more. We learned:
- A variety of organizations are current partners or have programming that aligns with the needs and desires of Friendship Court residents.
- Neighbors often said they wanted opportunities to get to know Friendship Court residents better.
- Many stakeholders said their top priority was for the redevelopment process to be a deeply resident-engaged effort.
What We Learned from the Market
While a great deal of housing is being built in Charlottesville, little if any new affordable housing is being created. We saw an opportunity to create new affordable housing choices. We learned:
- Residents want a better quality of life but feel trapped by the housing market.
- Many believe mixed-income housing can provide access to opportunities but that it must make options for economic mobility feel and be accessible.
- Residents whose income exceeds the Section 8 cap have very few affordable housing alternatives in Charlottesville. This often means relocating to suburban areas with fewer jobs and greater transportation costs.
What We Learned from City Plans and Initiatives
The design team reviewed previous city planning studies, zoning ordinances and site infrastructure. Documents like the Strategic Investment Area (SIA) plan helped inform the design and our approach to redevelopment. We learned:
- Market Analysis notes a critical lack of low-income housing within the city.
- The SIA plan puts priority on sustainability features such as green infrastructure and a new linear park system.
- The SIA also promotes connectivity by linking neighborhoods and creating better pedestrian and vehicular connections.
What We Learned about the Physical Site
The design team spent time on site to understand which parts of the site could be redeveloped and what types of structures or spaces were appropriate for certain parts of the site. We learned:
- Pollocks Branch, a stream buried in a 6′ x 6′ box culvert, runs diagonally across the current greenspace.
- Pollocks Branch drains more than 100 acres of downtown Charlottesville. Incorporating sustainable stormwater management into the new development is a priority.
- Relocating Pollocks Branch would cost so much that the design team had to develop a plan to work around it.
- Water and sewer services already available at Friendship Court are sufficient to support the proposed redevelopment.
- Changes in elevation across the site (higher at 2nd and Garrett; lower at 6th and Monticello) offer opportunities for parking under the building.
* * *
Next week on the blog, we’ll examine the key concepts of the master plan proposal.
Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Executive Summary (The Master Plan Process, The Context)