If I had to say one thing about the plans to refurbish and renovate Friendship Court, it would be this: what we do in this place has to work for the people who live there NOW.
We don’t want to do what happened at Vinegar Hill when an entire community was displaced. In fact, we want to do the OPPOSITE of what happened at Vinegar Hill. If it doesn’t work for the current residents, it doesn’t work for us.
And the only way we can know what works for the residents is to ask them, and we’ve already begun that process. We are eager to hear how we can improve the living experience all the people who live in the 150 apartments that make up this development.
What we DO know, is that on completion, Friendship Court will continue to include housing for all 150 families who live here now as well as workforce housing and some market-rate houses. We also want to be sure we incorporate green space and business opportunities – including opportunities that provide jobs for residents. Our goal is to give Friendship Court residents training in skilled trades – carpentry, masonry, plumbing, and the like – and jobs in construction on the site. Additionally, we also see some non-residential uses there such as a sliding-scale health center in partnership with Central Virginia Health Services and an Early Childhood Learning Center with affordable day care and a pre-K program for our kids . . . plus learning opportunities for adults in the evenings.
That said, we have made NO PLANS. We cannot even begin that process until we have received real and substantial input from the current residents. But we do have ideas, and at the top of that idea list is the imperative that we keep the Friendship Court community intact and the project affordable for the families that live there now. Our job is to unlock the potential of this valuable piece of real estate for the benefit of the people who live there now and to make whatever we do both environmentally and economically sustainable over the long run.
We have an opportunity to make the redevelopment of Friendship Court a national model for the redevelopment of affordable housing across the country. We hope that our work at Friendship Court can be a model for others in Charlottesville and across the country in how to residents can create the future for their own communities.
The bottom line is that we have great faith in the power and the wisdom of the residents of Friendship Court to plan their own future.