The Master Plan Process and What We Learned

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.

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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)

Emma Johnson, One of the First Friendship Court Residents, Looks Forward to the Redevelopment

Emma Johnson has lived in Charlottesville for a long time, mostly as a resident at Friendship Court Apartments.  Originally from Nelson County, Emma moved back to the area after living in Ohio for much of her life.  Emma said she knew she wanted to retire to this area where she spent her early years.  She decided to move to Friendship Court after her youngest daughter started college at the University of Virginia because it was affordable and new. Emma, mother to six children, moved into the community after she had been living on Anderson Street, in the 10th and Page neighborhood in Charlottesville.  At the time, Emma said they were still finishing the construction of Friendship Court. There was a church on the property where people would go for service on Sundays.  Emma said she had her own church, but sometimes she would go to the one at Friendship Court and has fond memories of it.

When she was in her early thirties, Emma came to work in Charlottesville as a textile worker, not far from Friendship Court, at the historic IX building. Emma recalls Frank Ix fondly, saying she would ask him what he planned to do after he retired.  She claims he would say simply, “Oh, I don’t know, Emma, I suppose I will just go home and do nothing.”  At the time, she says, she always knew she could talk to Mr. Ix about any troubles she had and he would help straighten things out.

Emma leads a busy lifestyle for a 90-year-old. She opens her door often to any one of her 15 grandchildren and she likes to get out and do most of her own shopping.  She enjoys reading and sewing and taking care of her home.  Emma, who has lived at Friendship Court now for close to 40 years, said she is excited about the changes to come.  “I think it’s going to be really nice. I like the idea of changes around here.” She likes the idea of being able to take an elevator up and down so she doesn’t have to take the stairs. Emma approves of the “hop-scotch” phasing approach to the redevelopment so that no one is displaced.  She says it “all sounds just great!”

The neighbors take care of Ms. Johnson at Friendship Court. She said I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated and that’s just what she does, “I am nice to people and they are nice back to me.  That’s how to be a good neighbor.  I was brought up the right way.”

Emma said she has always been treated well at Friendship Court.  Piedmont Housing Alliance looks forward to continuing to treat her well and to starting the positive changes at Friendship Court soon.

Why Redevelopment is the Right Choice for Friendship Court

Friendship CourtFriendship CourtFor the 150 families who call Friendship Court home, redevelopment means opportunity and hope for a brighter future. For the larger community, it’s a chance to remake a large part of our downtown and get it right – adding affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure without displacing anyone.

Friendship Court will be 40 years old in 2018. It has never undergone a major renovation. The buildings are outdated, and the site plan isolates residents from the surrounding neighborhoods.

In 2018, Piedmont Housing Alliance will have the opportunity to redevelop the site. We aim to connect Friendship Court physically, economically and socially to the rest of Charlottesville.

Our goals for the new Friendship Court include mixed-income housing in a mixed-use community, with 150 units of Section 8-assisted housing, additional affordable and workforce housing, and a large complement of market-rate housing.

Our first commitment is to the current residents – to redevelop the site without displacing anyone. We’ve crafted a plan to redevelop in phases, keeping resident families on site throughout.

The Friendship Court Advisory Committee, including residents elected by their neighbors, has been essential to the creation of the master plan, advising our design team and carrying ideas both to and from the community.

What are the redevelopment goals?

1. Friendship Court Improves Quality of Life and Fosters Access to Opportunity for All of its Residents.

Mixed-income housing allows movement within the site for residents as family or financial situations change. Partners come together on the site to provide economic benefits, retail opportunities and the possibility for wealth creation.

2. Friendship Court is Physically and Socially Connected and Integrated Across the Site and to the Surrounding Area.

All 150 Section 8 units are integrated in a diverse manner across the entire site. A network of new walkable streets, pedestrian ways, and green spaces invite on-site residents of all incomes and residents of surrounding neighborhoods to interact. The site should respect and enhance the surrounding neighborhood, in harmony with the City of Charlottesville’s goals as embodied in the Strategic Investment Area (SIA) Plan. Programming connects Friendship Court in multiple ways to the community.

3. Friendship Court Respects and Values the Lives of All of its Residents

Friendship Court capitalizes on the community’s strengths, promotes cultural and economic diversity, and encourages mutual respect among all residents. Ownership and management support existing residents without differentiating between new and existing residents.

4. Friendship Court is a Great Place

Friendship Court is a local and national model for equity, sustainability, and beauty – with spaces designed to invite diverse people to build and share a sense of community.

These goals were discussed, refined, and approved by the Friendship Court Advisory Committee in February 2016.

* * *

Next week on the blog, we’ll explore the question: “What is a master plan?”
Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Executive Summary (Introduction)

Meet Jarvis Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Jarvis Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Jarvis Jackson is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Jarvis, 14, is in the 9th grade at Charlottesville High School. He works at Kroger but when he is not working or at school, he likes to go to the gym to work out. He says he likes helping people. His favorite color is sky blue, usually the color he wakes up to.  Jarvis hopes to become a doctor one day.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Jarvis said he’s always wanted to go to Bora Bora because it seems very wonderful and because he wants to go somewhere different.  Jarvis said he is learning a lot in this program, including how to spend money properly and also how to save it.  He also says he’s learning more about how to be a team player.

Jarvis says he was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he is interested in doing what’s right.  He enjoys getting out and meeting new people, and being a part of this team helps him get to know his community better and learn where he can contribute to it.

What is Friendship Court


Just a few blocks from Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall sits an affordable housing development that is home to 150 families.

More than 250 children live at Friendship Court. While over half the residents have jobs, average household income is only about $11,000 a year. Each household receives Section 8 rental assistance.

Two not-for-profit organizations, Piedmont Housing Alliance and National Housing Trust, purchased the 11.75-acre Friendship Court property in 2002, in order to preserve affordable housing on the site.

In 2018, Piedmont Housing Alliance will have an opportunity to transform Friendship Court into a mixed-income, mixed-use community that is welcoming to all. Current residents will continue to live at Friendship Court during and after redevelopment.

* * *

Next week on the blog, we’ll explore the question: “Why redevelopment?”

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Executive Summary (Introduction)

Meet Justin Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Justin Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Cour

Justin Jackson is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Justin, 13, is in the 8th grade at Buford Middle School where he says there are some pretty cool teachers.  He enjoys video games and is interested in becoming a video game designer. His favorite color is violet.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Justin said Dubai because he thinks it looks beautiful.  Justin enjoyed getting to see the movie Hidden Figures recently with other members of the Youth Leadership Team, and he commented that the movie portrayed great examples of leadership.

Justin was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to help make the community even better than it already is.

Meet Javisha Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Javisha Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Javisha Jackson is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Javisha, 17, is in the 11th grade at Charlottesville High School.  She has four brothers. Javisha is learning a lot about credit and savings through the Youth Leadership Program.  Her favorite color is blue and she likes listening to R&B and hip-hop music. Javisha would love to travel to Paris or Barcelona because they both look so beautiful. She is thinking of becoming an obstetrician when she gets older.

Javisha was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because it gives her the chance to help other kids out at Friendship Court. She also thinks this will help her learn about the redevelopment in a way for her to share with others.

Youth Leadership Team Learns About Financial Management from Piedmont Housing Alliance

PHA Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team Money Management Class

The Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team has kicked off the new year with a two-part series of classes on financial management, taught by Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Shelley Murphy.

PHA Friendship Court Money Management Shelley Murphy Youth Leadership Team part IIShelley, a housing counselor at Piedmont Housing, has more than 12 years of experience teaching a variety of classes ranging from financial budgeting to home ownership. In her first session, Shelley covered basic money management and discussed how to create a budget. They participated in several activities to help them start thinking more in-depth about money management. In one activity, the team talked about leaders and how a leader might make decisions about money.  Shelley also split the team into two groups, and asked them to explain how they might teach a group of 5th graders about money management and budgeting. This gave them an opportunity to share what they had learned.

During her second session, Shelley explained credit and how to come up with a manageable spending plan.  The team members learned the difference between a charge card and a credit card and also just what credit is.

PHA Friendship Court Money Management Shelley Murphy Youth Leadership TeamKnowing how to deal with one’s finances is a critical life skill. Since the youth receive a stipend for participating in the youth leadership program, and have or will soon have jobs, offering them an opportunity to learn about the importance of money management and good credit is a very valuable experience. Claudette Grant, Friendship Court’s community organizer said, “You are never too young to learn these skills.”

The Youth Leadership Program equips resident youth leaders with valuable skills, experiences, and networks to both provide input for the redevelopment and to create educational and career opportunities. Piedmont Housing Alliance remains committed to helping the Youth Leadership Team of Friendship Court effectively provide input for the redevelopment of their community. This team of highly motivated and engaged youth is embracing the challenges in front of them.

Piedmont Housing Alliance and ReadyKids – Benefits Your Family Can Take Home

ReadyKids logo

ReadySteps session at Friendship Court

Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager, and Kelsey Lehman, CCQ Educator at Friendship Court Community Center

It all happens at the Friendship Court Apartments Community Center. Some call it pre-school for the whole family. It’s called ReadyKids, where children (birth through five years) and their caregivers (parent, grandparent, child care provider, etc.) get together for fun, learning, and bonding.

Shannon Banks of ReadyKids with Friendship Court kids

Together, children and adults participate in activities that include everything from math and music to reading, art, and just plain play. The Program Educator and Family Coordinator work together to provide a program that promotes mutual understanding and opportunities to socially mingle with other kids and caregivers, which is what connecting with the community is all about.

This is a rare benefit for caregivers, who can learn first-hand how their child is growing and developing. And kids learn that their caring adults can be supportive and fun. The overall goal is to extend this concept and experience from the community center into the home. The program includes developmental and other support services by trained professionals, such as counseling and intervention, finding a dance class for your three-year-old, or helping to locate adult education classes.

Kudos to Shannon Banks, program manager, Eleanor Hoppe, program educator, and Laura Somel, family coordinator, for their energetic and committed work. The big news right now is that they will be adding a second educator early in the New Year!

Call (434) 296-4118 to learn about more programs and services in support of early childhood education or parenting.  And don’t miss the ReadyKids website at www.readykidscville.org, which will explain the mission, goals, and strategies behind the many programs ReadyKids promotes. ReadyKids is a proud partner of the Piedmont Housing Alliance, who supports local families with its mission to create housing opportunities and build community, and who is working with Friendship Court families on the transformational redevelopment of their community.

Video

Watch: Our Video about the Redevelopment of Friendship Court