Monthly Archives: March 2017

Talking about Friendship Court with Community Stakeholders

The redevelopment of Friendship Court will require partnerships across Charlottesville. To begin laying the groundwork for those partnerships, and to solicit input about a variety of issues integral to understanding Friendship Court, Piedmont Housing and its design team pursued intensive stakeholder engagement.

We met and talked with a wide array of stakeholders including Neighborhood Development Services, Virginia Housing Development Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, Legal Aid Justice Center, resident associations, neighborhood associations, schools and various not-for-profit service providers including site visits to local organizations.

Stakeholders Engaged (December 2015–May 2016)

Tamika Allen
Pete Armetta
Charlie Armstrong
Shannon Banks
Wes Bellamy
Carolyn Betts
Tara Boyd
Chip Boyle
Read Brodhead
Mark Brown
Wendy Brown
Brenda Castañeda
Zoe Cohen
Brandon Collins
Ty Cooper
Chris Craytor
Missy Creasy
Brian Daly
Mary Loose DeViney
Bill Dittmar
Andrea Douglas
Emily Dreyfus
Connie Dunn
Bill Edgerton
Chris Engel
Bob Fenwick
Kathy Galvin
Eunice Garrett
Deanna Gould
Melvin Grady
Charlene Green
Brian Haluska
Rashad Hanbali
Beverly Hanlin
Mike Hawkins
Jack and Linda Hawxhurst
Stephen Hitchcock
Jack Horn
Rosa Hudson
Tim Hulbert
Satyendra Singh Huja
Alex Ikefuna
Deb Jackson
Greg Jackson
Eric Johnson
Julie Jones
Daphne Keiser
Susan Kirschel
Katie Kishore
Craig Kotarski
Diane Kuknyo
Ludwig Kuttner
Oliver Kuttner
Kelly Logan
Police Chief Longo
Rod Manifold
Kathy McHugh
Bill McGee
Jon Nafziger
Heather Newmyer
Todd Niemeier
Amanda Patterson
Piedmont Housing Board of Directors
James Pierce
Amanda Poncy
Carrie Rainey
Kim Rolla
Dan Rosensweig
Mariam Rushfin
John Santoski
Ridge Schuyler
Leslie Scott
Lena Seville
Katie Shevlin
Mayor Mike Signer
Marty Silman
Maynard Sipe
Matthew Slatts
Dede Smith
Kristin Szakos
Alan Taylor
Cathy Train
Anna Towns
Candice Van der Linde
Will Van der Linde
Bill Wardle
Kevin White
JP Williamson
Brian Wimer
Buddy Weiner

We believe this list to be comprehensive. We apologize for any omissions. If you believe we have failed to include someone in this list, please let us know. 

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look at how the local housing market affects redevelopment at Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Stakeholder Context)

A Better Quality of Life for Friendship Court Residents

Redevelopment at Friendship Court is an opportunity to add affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure for the Charlottesville community. It’s also a wonderful chance to create new opportunities for current residents.

One of our guiding redevelopment goals is that “Friendship Court Improves Quality of Life and Fosters Access to Opportunity for All of its Residents.” Here’s what residents have told us about their quality of life and what could be different.

Aspirations

What we learned: Whenever possible, residents are actively looking for ways to improve their situations.

Several residents talked about pursuing further education, be it degree-track courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College or literacy classes at Jefferson School. However, barriers—including childcare, health, and finances—regularly complicate these efforts. Despite such obstacles, there was a clear and strong desire to resume their education.

What that tells us: Redevelopment needs not only to encompass physical upgrades but also to provide new and expanded programs that can support residents’ aspirations.

Reputation

What we learned: The “taint” of Garrett Square is still strong among residents and their cohort (e.g., other parents at the local schools).

Garrett Square was renamed Friendship Court in 2003, but many people still call it “Garrett Square” and continue to associate the community with its old reputation. At a teen workshop, one participant commented that her friend’s mother won’t let her come to Friendship Court to play because she still sees it as Garrett Square—dangerous and “the ghetto.”

What that tells us: Simply renovating existing apartments won’t change Friendship Court’s reputation. It needs to look and feel like a better place to live, especially for current residents.

Management

What we learned: The management company has been a source of conflict on site. It contributes to a resident perception that the owners don’t care for or respect them.

Many residents have viewed management as unresponsive to resident concerns. Residents reported delayed attention to repairs and unequal treatment. Management is the most tangible connection residents have with the ownership group, and its negative reputation colors the ownership’s reputation.

What that tells us: Mixed-income developments require a high-quality management structure. Responding quickly and efficiently to resident concerns will achieve the goal of valuing all residents.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see all the community stakeholders who contributed to the planning process.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Quality of Life)

Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces: What Can We Improve?

Our conversations with Friendship Court residents have revealed a number of ways that indoor and outdoor spaces could serve them better.

Outdoor Social Spaces

What we learned: There are no good outdoor social spaces.

Courtyards are oriented toward young children. Much of the green space is unusable. The parking lot is a place where people often loiter. Residents aren’t allowed to hang out on their porches. They want places to sit and to actively engage with the outdoors.

What that tells us: Residents value personal exterior space but also want common spaces that serve a wide range of users.

Play Spaces for Children

What we learned: Families with children value connection to the outside.

One resident commented that if you don’t live adjacent to a courtyard with play equipment or the exterior play space, it can be difficult to let your child play outside because you can’t watch them from your apartment.

What that tells us: The priority is for lines of sight rather than direct physical access, suggesting that families with children could be organized around courtyards but may not require direct access from their unit.

Safety

What we learned: Safety can be an issue with the exterior spaces adjacent to units.

All units have exterior storage. For some, the storage space sits directly in front of the unit, opposite the front door. Residents feel that this creates an unsafe space. People can loiter here and be shielded from public view if they’re involved in illicit activity.

What that tells us: Safety is not only a design imperative to be tackled at the site level, but also in the way that units and building open to the outside.

Personalization and Beauty

What we learned: Management rules limit the ways residents can personalize their spaces, so residents take full advantage of any small opportunity to do so.

Rules prevent things like planting flowers (a request from a teen workshop participant) or painting walls any color but off-white. Painting must be done by the management company, another limitation. Residents personalize their spaces in other ways, from decorations in the homes to “wrapping” front doors at Christmas.

What that tells us: Residents desire fewer arbitrary rules, more freedom, and more beauty inside and outside their units.

Quality of Light

What we learned: Apartment interiors are very dark.

Window size and placement, low ceilings and paint colors make many units feel dark and claustrophobic. Even during the day with open shades, the amount of natural daylight is quite limited. Residents are only allowed to use low-wattage bulbs, too weak to make much difference.

What that tells us: The building and unit designs need higher ceilings; more and larger windows; and better interior lighting, particularly in common spaces.

Interior Spaces

What we learned: Apartment interiors are residents’ primary social spaces, but they’re too small for that purpose.

All the rooms feel small. Living rooms don’t accommodate large families. Bedrooms in particular are quite small. The layouts of the units vary, but none offer open floor plans.

What that tells us: Redevelopment needs to use modern, market-driven floor plans for all apartments. These can offer more efficient, comfortable and attractive spaces in limited square footage.

Privacy

What we learned: Teenagers want more privacy.

They have few if any spaces specifically intended for them. Within the units, bedrooms are small and often shared between siblings. (“More bedrooms” is a frequent request from teens.) The only space frequently used by teens at the Community Center is the computer lab. Teens’ desires are worth noting: while most children at Friendship Court are now younger than 12, by the time redevelopment is complete most will be teenagers.

What that tells us: We need to think about features for accommodating a larger teenage population, including opportunities for greater privacy in units and teen-specific spaces in common areas.

Unit Adjacencies

What we learned: Conflicts can arise between households with children and those without – largely focused on issues such as noise and levels of activity.

What that tells us: We need to think about how to distribute unit types, acoustical treatments, and other design elements to ease these conflicts.

Fences

What we learned: Many residents believe the fence around the site makes the site feel like a prison.

Although installed to reduce crime, the fence instead feels like a wall keeping residents in and creating opportunities for conflict at the few entry/exit points. (And it doesn’t keep negative elements out of the site.)

What that tells us: There needs to be better flow into and out of the site to remove pinch points. We also need to think about how to design for a sense of safety.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a look at the opportunities for redevelopment to improve residents’ quality of life.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Apartment Exterior + Interior)

What We Learned About Pinch Points, Green Space, and Other Site Issues

During community meetings and personal interviews, Friendship Court residents described several dysfunctional aspects of the property that need improvement.

Pinch Points

What we learned

The school bus stop and the areas around the eastern row of units near the Community Center are considered places prone to conflict. The bus stop is one of the few entry/exit points for the property and a place where people congregate. It’s a pick-up point with no place to sit and wait comfortably. Adults and teenage residents also cite the area near the community center as a place where tensions tend to flare, leading to disputes among both children and parents.

What that tells us

  • There needs to be better flow into and out of the site to remove these pinch points.
  • Places where people congregate should be more intentionally designed.
  • More programs/services are needed to address stress management and conflict.

Courtyards

What we learned

Existing courtyards are underutilized and tend to cater to very young children. Residents really want to spend time outside but feel there isn’t a place for them to do so. Older kids in particular complain about a lack of age-appropriate equipment.

What that tells us

  • Redevelopment should include common spaces that attract and serve a wide range of users.

Large Green Spaces

What we learned

The large green space on the eastern edge of the site is an underutilized resource. This space should be an amenity but isn’t. Prone to flooding after rain, it features play equipment whose appeal is limited and that suffers from poor maintenance.

What that tells us

  • The layout of the green space doesn’t serve the needs and desires of residents. We need to identify key aspirations for outdoor recreation and then design space to meet them.

Green Spaces

What we learned

The parking lots become de facto space for recreation and social interaction. With no other places to hang out and play, residents meet and children play in the parking lots—unsafe places to play or ride a bike. Sometimes those who gather there bring negative

elements from outside or are themselves from outside Friendship Court, making the space feel unsafe for residents.

What that tells us

  • Common spaces that attract and serve a wide range of users should be part of redevelopment. We need to think about how to design for a sense of safety.

UACC Community Garden

What we learned

On the site for nearly ten years, the garden has a small but committed group of resident stewards and a large number of recipients of its produce. It is one of several similar gardens in town that host rotating market days. The garden has been improved recently with the addition of fruit trees and stone terraces. Farmer Todd, manager of the garden, is committed to continuing efforts that support residents.

What that tells us

  • The community garden is an asset and should be retained as part of redevelopment.
  • Farmer Todd is open to change as long as it benefits resident

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see what residents said about how the apartments could be improved.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Site Issues)

Resident Engagement is a Cornerstone of Friendship Court Redevelopment

Piedmont Housing Alliance and the design team who led the master planning process worked with residents to create a redevelopment project that can work for the 150 households that live there now. We sought input from residents and other stakeholders through multiple channels, including:

In-home Interviews (14 interviews)

In-depth conversations (minimum of 1 hour) that took place within residents’ apartments. Residents interviewed represent a cross section of the population at Friendship Court. (This process continues.)

Teen Workshops (3 workshops)

Interactive workshops with teen residents intended to gain their perspective on living at Friendship Court and what they want to see in the future. This engagement continues and deepens with the Youth Leadership Team.

Resident Community Meetings (4 meetings)

Interactive meetings to discuss resident needs and desires, findings from the design team’s work, and suggestions for direction. Meetings will continue four times a year. They are open to all current Friendship Court residents and take place at the Community Center.

Friendship Court Advisory Committee (4 meetings)

The Advisory Committee was created to provide an active steering group of project stakeholders and to provide guidance to Piedmont Housing in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life. Half the group’s 13 members are residents who were elected by other residents in January 2016. The committee chair is also a resident. The Advisory Committee continues to meet regularly.

Residents Interviewed (Dec 2015–May 2016)

Lisa Armitage, Tamara Brown, Tanasha Brown, Christina Cobbs, Sheri Hopper, Crystal Johnson (2), Betty Lowry, Angela Morris, Priscilla Quarles, Robert Seal, Callie Smith, Tamara Wright (2)

Most of the workshops and resident meetings have involved brainstorming sessions about how people feel about Friendship Court now, what they believe can be better, and what their desires are for the future.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine what we learned from residents about site issues.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Resident Engagement)

History of Friendship Court and its Surrounding Neighborhoods

Friendship Court rose from urban renewal. In 1967, the area known as the Garrett Street neighborhood was cleared by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Most of the industrial and commercial sites and all of the existing housing along Garrett as well as Diggs, Dice, Oak, Ware, and 2nd Streets to the south were removed.

The same 1960s urban renewal process that generated Garrett Square produced harmful outcomes in another downtown neighborhood: Vinegar Hill. As in many communities across the country, urban renewal in Charlottesville saw the destruction of a vibrant African American neighborhood and business district.

While urban renewal was presented as an opportunity to bring new life to downtown, for many African Americans, Vinegar Hill meant displacement of African American families and businesses. That profound sense of loss is still fresh today, 50 years later.

Garrett Square (later renamed Friendship Court) was built in 1978 on the cleared Garrett site. In 2002, Piedmont Housing Alliance entered into a partnership with National Housing Trust (NHT) to acquire and renovate Friendship Court. In 2018, Piedmont Housing will have the opportunity to become the managing partner and redevelop this site. In nearly 40 years of existence, Friendship Court has never undergone a major redevelopment.

The proposed master plan for Friendship Court seeks to redevelop the site without displacing any of the mostly African American residents at any time during or after construction. Instead of destroying affordable housing, the current effort seeks to preserve and expand the stock of affordable and workforce housing in a process informed by those who live there now.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see an overview of the resident engagement process that informed the master plan – more than two dozen meetings and interviews.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Neighborhood Context)

How Does Friendship Court Fit into the Surrounding Neighborhood?

Neighborhood Amenities

Due to its central location, Friendship Court is surrounded by many neighborhood amenities within a 5- to 10-minute walk. These include:

  • Over a dozen restaurants, small-scale retail shops, and several grocery outlets
  • Places of worship
  • The Jefferson School City Center and the African American Heritage Center
  • Cultural amenities, including the Paramount Theater, Live Arts, Virginia Discovery Museum, Music Resource Center, the Library, and art galleries
  • IX Art Park, IX Innovation Center, and Computers 4 Kids
  • ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center
  • Parks and open space

 

 

Neighborhood Connections

Friendship Court’s physical features—a “superblock” without a cross street, a perimeter fence and limited pedestrian and vehicular access—all make it feel isolated. Reducing this effect will mean making connections to the adjacent neighborhood. Nearby neighbors include downtown, The Gleason, IX, Crescent Halls, Sixth Street, and Belmont.

Pedestrian connections can be made to downtown along 2nd Street and 4th Street. 2nd Street can be enlivened with active ground-floor uses such as retail and community services and an improved pedestrian-oriented streetscape. New pedestrian and street infrastructure can connect Friendship Court to the IX site. Community-serving amenities and social services along 6th Street can connect to Friendship Court and Crescent Halls.

Plans should maintain sensitivity to the single family context Belmont neighborhoods and encourage pedestrian connections into the site from the neighboring residential areas.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look back at the history of Friendship Court and 1960s urban renewal.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Neighborhood Context)

The State of Affordable Housing in Charlottesville

The challenge of economic mobility for residents and the lack of affordable housing in Charlottesville have directly informed the plan for redeveloping Friendship Court.

Moving forward with this plan will make Friendship Court redevelopment the first true mixed-income rental project in Charlottesville. With a mix of deeply affordable Section 8 units, tax-credit and workforce units, and market-rate units, redevelopment will bring together all segments of the city’s population at a scale never before attempted in Charlottesville.

While a number of existing and proposed new developments surround Friendship Court, none (other than public housing) are affordable to low- and middle-income families of Charlottesville. The City of Charlottesville’s 2025 Goals for Affordable Housing report from 2010 states that, “the gap was largest for extremely low-income households (less than 30% AMFI) where the number of renters exceeded the number of affordable units by 992.”

“This gap was increased to 3,917 as a result of higher income households out-bidding the lower income segment and occupying nearly 60% of the units affordable to this income category. The same phenomenon took place for the very-low income group (30-50% AMFI) with higher income households occupying almost half (51.8%) of the units affordable at this income level.”

“Severe housing cost burdens cause a host of problems, including under consumption of other necessary goods and services as well as family instability.”

This map identifies some of the limited number of developments in Charlottesville with affordable units.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine the neighborhood context surrounding Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Charlottesville Context)

How Does Friendship Court Fit into the Charlottesville Context?

Redevelopment plans for Friendship Court will be designed to address the housing needs of local families. Our design team examined how Friendship Court relates to local demographics and the overall housing market in Charlottesville. Here’s what they found.

City of Charlottesville

The City of Charlottesville, centrally located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has a population of just over 48,000. Home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and major medical centers, Charlottesville is a thriving city with a vibrant downtown anchored by the downtown mall.

The 11.75-acre Friendship Court site—bounded by Garrett Street on the north, 2nd Street on the west, Monticello Avenue on the south, and 6th Street on the east—sits just a block and a half from the core of downtown.

The Charlottesville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes the city and five surrounding counties, with a total a population of approximately 219,000. The majority of those residents live in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Median household income in the MSA is $84,100. The median resident age is just over 34 years.

 

Friendship Court in the Charlottesville Context

Over the past 10 years, the level of development around Friendship Court has increased dramatically. Charlottesville is experiencing rising rents and adding housing, new businesses and stores. Friendship Court residents can see the pace of change, yet they haven’t benefited from this development.

Some 500 people live in 150 apartments at Friendship Court today. More than half (58%) of residents are under 18. 93% of units at Friendship Court have a female head of household. 88% of residents are African American, and 12% are white.

The average annual household income at Friendship Court is approximately $11,000. Many residents hold down more than one job, yet the average wages for those families is just $16,200. By the federal definition, the majority of Friendship Court residents live at or below the poverty level.

Among adult heads of households, more than 50% are employed, with the remainder receiving Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF), child-support payments, or some combination of these. About 20% of the working adults earn more than $20,000.

Most working adults in Friendship Court work in Charlottesville or nearby Albemarle County. The largest clusters of workers are employed by the University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville City Schools, Albemarle County Schools and small businesses. The residents at Friendship Court are representative of other Charlottesville residents with limited housing options, given current rents in the market.

Just over 27% of all Charlottesville households live in poverty. Many of these households are employed but have limited housing options. A large percentage of them work in industries crucial to a functioning economy: food service, healthcare, retail and administration.

Units now coming to market in Charlottesville skew to middle- and upper-income levels and rents, with a significant percentage targeted to empty nesters and students, according to Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Policy Recommendations: Affordable and Workforce Housing (a report prepared by the RCLCO consulting firm for the City of Charlottesville and released in 2016). More affordable options can be found in the surrounding counties, but the greatest job opportunities and highest wages are found within the Charlottesville city limits.

Increases in income for Friendship Court residents lead to an increase in their rent, adding another financial burden. If residents start to earn more than allowed under Section 8, they must leave and often have to move outside the city limits to find housing they can afford. This condition has informed the plan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court by maintaining all 150 deeply affordable Section 8 units while also introducing higher-income units.

Filling this missing middle tier of housing between affordable and market-rate will allow families to remain on site and in the city as their incomes rise. This directly addresses the recommendations of the SIA report and the housing study prepared by RCLCO, which calls for middle-income housing within walking distance of jobs and educational and cultural opportunities.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look at Charlottesville’s affordable housing gap.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Charlottesville Context)

Next Steps and Implementation of the Master Plan

What’s next?

Publishing the master plan for redevelopment at Friendship Court is not the end of the design process; it’s truly the beginning.

The master plan gives us a starting point to talk about the specifics of the design of both the site and the buildings, and about amenities and specific uses. It gives us a framework for conversations with residents and other stakeholders. Most important, it gives shape to the ongoing conversation about how, together, we can achieve our goals and put our values into action.

The master plan tells us what could be built on the site and how we can redevelop without displacing current residents. The plan also explains the constraints imposed on us by laws and regulation, by the political process, by the market, by the resources available to us, and by the site itself.

How we get to what’s next will be shaped by the resources available. As a not-for-profit developer, Piedmont Housing has fewer resources than a for-profit developer could bring to a project of this size. And as a private organization, we have none of the resources—temporary housing subsidies, relocation funds, other land on which to build other units in which to house residents—that a redevelopment or housing authority might have.

We are grateful for the support of the City of Charlottesville, the Donovan Foundation, the Virginia Housing Development Authority, and everyone who has supported us in the process.

How will residents be involved in future decision-making?
Residents have expressed a desire to participate as plans are developed for things like amenities and unit designs. A primary goal going forward is to involve residents in the planning and design of the project. We’ll continue and deepen multiple channels we’ve already established with residents, including:

• connecting to the elected Advisory Board members;
• connecting with Claudette Grant, our onsite community organizer;
• participating in working groups organized around specific topics;
• providing suggestions or feedback during door-to-door engagement sessions;
• submitting a comment card at one of the on-site suggestion boxes; and
• participating in the Youth Leadership Program available to residents aged 12 to
18. (Funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund through the University of Virginia).

Regular updates will also be delivered to residents by hand, by mail, and online (at www.friendshipcourtapartments.com or www.facebook.com/FriendshipCourt).

How will phasing and relocation work?
First, a little background: Friendship Court currently benefits from a project-based Section 8 contract. The contract fills the gap between the rents affordable to residents and the rents needed to operate the property. Friendship Court also abides by a mandate of the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) that 150 units remain affordable through the year 2032. Section 8 rent subsidies are tied to the property—so we can’t use them for temporarily housing residents off site.

Because we seek to retain all resident families, and given these facts and the history of development in Charlottesville, the master plan includes a strategy to avoid displacement of current residents during or after construction. To accomplish this we have developed a multi-year phasing plan.

We will build the first new units on the open portions of the site at the corner of Sixth and Garrett streets and at the corner of Sixth and Monticello Avenue. Once those units are completed, residents of designated existing units will move in. Their now-vacated units will be torn down and another set of buildings built in their place. We’ll repeat the process of relocation, demolition and new construction across the site until we reach full build-out.

Existing residents will be moved from old units to new units gradually rather than all at once to facilitate integration of the buildings and prevent any building from becoming “the Section 8 building.”

While the particulars of the phasing plan are still being considered, our commitment to not displace any resident at any time is unchanged.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how Friendship Court fits into the Charlottesville context.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Executive Summary (Next Steps and Implementation)