Monthly Archives: April 2017

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

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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)

Master Plan Digest: Sustainability at Friendship Court

The redeveloped Friendship Court site will be sustainably designed and highly energy efficient. As new technologies emerge over time, Friendship Court will look to best practices in energy efficiency to build into the plan.

Initially the site will have low-flow water fixtures, photovoltaic solar panels, smart sensors to measure consumption, a commitment to reuse of materials, rainwater capture, high-efficiency electrical and mechanical equipment and designs that reduce heat gain and cooling loss.

Additional measures may include geothermal energy, infrastructure for solar power and net metering (under the assumption that the site and its buildings could feed energy back to the power grid). Programs, financing, rebates and tax credits are being researched to figure out the best combination of elements for the site.

Energy efficiency has a direct connection to enhancing affordability and residents’ quality of life, in terms of both health and finances. A 20% reduction in the cost of utilities across the entire site—easily achievable—could fund additional units and create the possibility for more resident services or amenities.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine parking solutions for a mixed-use urban site.

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

Master Plan Digest: Green Infrastructure Elements in the Master Plan

Enhancing publicly accessible green space at Friendship Court with stormwater management features will provide a public benefit and additional amenities for residents. The master plan for redevelopment incorporates new elements such as bioswales, while making room for urban gardens as well as multi-use green spaces.

Green infrastructure and open space improvements are estimated to cost between $2 million and $4 million, but they will mitigate stormwater and create bioretention that will benefit the rest of Charlottesville. These improvements will also help create lush, green sidewalk environments.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see how sustainable design can improve affordability and quality of life for residents.

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

Master Plan Digest: A Mix of Uses Creates Lively Streets

Zoning regulations discourage both retail and housing within a building at street level, even though these are proven ways to create a lively streetscape. Great urban streets have active and transparent (lots of windows) first floors filled with restaurants, businesses and other uses.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough retail demand to fill all the ground floors at the redeveloped Friendship Court. However, amenities and services can also create an active environment.

As a mission-focused nonprofit housing provider, Piedmont Housing would not typically take on the costs and risks of retail development. But street-level non-residential uses provide safety, social activity, and jobs within the neighborhood. To gain those benefits, this redevelopment will include both retail and community space.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look at proposed green infrastructure.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Mix of Uses)

Master Plan Digest: Massing — What Size will the New Buildings Be?

When architects talk about the general form and size of a building, they call it “massing.”  What will the indoor and outdoor spaces feel like? How will the building shape the neighborhood around it?

During the master planning process for redevelopment at Friendship Court, several factors came to light which shaped the proposed building massing:

  • Residents’ desires and aspirations for future housing choices, which include apartment living with elevator access as well as townhouse-style housing with front doors and stoops
  • Piedmont Housing’s commitment to no displacement of current residents during redevelopment
  • Residents and stakeholder goals of improved connectivity between Friendship Court and the surrounding neighborhoods
  • Residents and stakeholder goals for more active streets and first floors
  • The need to work around the existing Pollocks Branch infrastructure
  • Construction costs
  • Development economics

To replace the existing 150 Section 8 units, add additional affordable units, and provide market-rate units that help subsidize the affordable units, the massing type that emerged was buildings of 4 to 6 stories. The building heights nearest to 6th street will be adjusted to 3 stories, in order to be more sensitive to the scale of neighboring homes in Belmont.

Active first-floor uses (including offices space for Piedmont Housing, resident amenities such as an indoor basketball court, and resident services) are located along 2nd Street, the extended 4th Street and Hinton Avenue.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll discuss the proposed mix of retail and community space alongside residential units.

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

Master Plan Digest: Connecting Friendship Court to Other Neighborhoods

Connectivity through Friendship Court and the creation of a greenway are both priorities highlighted in previous planning efforts. Many residents feel disconnected from the surrounding community. The existing fence prevents easy access to and through Friendship Court from neighboring areas.

Redevelopment will involve building new internal streets that connect to the existing street grid around Friendship Court. 4th Street will extend across the site to Monticello Avenue; Hinton Avenue will extend across the site to Second Street; and Belmont Avenue will continue across the site as a pedestrian way that connects to 4th Street.

This new street network creates more traditionally scaled downtown blocks than the previous internal streets. Instead of belonging to one development project with a single address, new buildings will take on the addresses of the streets they face: residents will live on Garrett Street, Hinton Avenue, 4th Street SE, and so on.

The new streets will be designed as active, pedestrian-friendly environments. 4th Street will incorporate ample sidewalks and green infrastructure in the form of landscaped beds to create a north-south “greenway” through the new blocks. Other streets will be lined with residential front doors and civic spaces.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see how several factors affect the proposed massing (size and shape) of the new buildings.

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

Youth from Friendship Court Participate in PVCC’s KidsCollege Spring Break Academies

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with girlSpring break means sometimes kids are at home searching for ways to keep themselves busy during their time off from school.  However, several third- through sixth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in a week-long Spring Break Academy offered by PVCC called 3D Terrain Explorations.

John Haverkamp, who has a background in artisanal crafts and computer software instruction for youth and adults, kept the Friendship Court kids busy for the week. The class ran from April 3-7 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. each day and taught the kids how to create a 3-D world.  The kids explored a variety of 3-D programs such as World Machine, Unity and Autodesk 123D to learn about 3-D computer terrain creations. Through a step-by-step process, the youth generated a 3-D computer walk-through in the Unity Game engine and also built real cardboard topographic dioramas of their terrain. While creating these worlds, the youth learned about the processes of geological and ecosystem simulation models. Tory Twitty, Friendship Court Activity Coordinator, was on hand to help John out.

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with group

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege. During the past several years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this program that PVCC offers.

Thanks to Piedmont Virginia Community College for their continued partnership and work with the Friendship Court youth who seemed to have a blast.

We also thank Verizon for their $10,000 grant in support of STEM programming which serves to close the technology gap, provide high-quality educational opportunities, improve school readiness, and build community for the families who live at Friendship Court Apartments.

Kids College Spring Break Academies kid1 Kids College Spring Break Academies kid group

Master Plan Digest: The Framework Behind the Redevelopment Master Plan

By analyzing everything we learned and reviewing the physical and financial constraints facing the project, our design team devised a potential direction for the Friendship Court redevelopment master plan.

The planning framework that emerged is based on existing conditions, stakeholder interviews, and—most importantly—the commitment to not displace current residents.

Here are some of the key design drivers that resulted from this process:

  • No displacement of current residents means a longer development timeline and the relocation of certain amenities.
  • Providing a mixed-income environment with greater opportunities and amenities is only possible with greater height and density.
  • To pursue an integrated approach to development, distribute affordable units evenly across the site and throughout the buildings.
  • Locating parking below buildings means creating more open space and associated amenities.
  • Relief on certain zoning requirements, such as parking, would support a greater number of affordable and workforce units.

The mixed-income nature of the new Friendship Court will provide a myriad of benefits, not only for the residents but also for the surrounding neighborhoods and the city as a whole: new connections, green infrastructure, open space, and an engaging design that activates local streets.

With a commitment to creating these amenities, cost becomes a larger factor. Collaboration between Piedmont Housing and the City of Charlottesville, among others, will be necessary to raise needed funds for this multifaceted development.

The draft master plan published in June included 480 residential units in buildings of four stories (three stories at Sixth and Monticello, where the buildings come closest to the Belmont neighborhood).

As Piedmont Housing and the design team worked through the possibilities for the site plan, we also worked through the costs and feasibility of that plan. It’s ambitious, with extensive development of the site, construction of new roads and pedestrian connections, structured parking below the buildings, extensive amenities and a long and costly phasing strategy required to avoid displacing current residents during redevelopment. We found that a project of 480 units, including 150 Section 8 units and 80 new affordable and workforce units, simply could not support all of that infrastructure.

To make the project financially feasible, we need to build 600 units. A project of this size would include all 150 Section 8 units; the 80 new affordable and workforce units; and 370 market-rate units. The additional market-rate units are necessary to bear the cost of infrastructure and, most important, to allow for creation of the below-market affordable and workforce units.

Simply increasing the height of buildings on Second and Garrett streets from four to six stories and increasing the maximum density from 43 units per acre to just over 51 units per acre can produce 600 units. (The building at the corner of Sixth and Monticello, nearest to the Belmont neighborhood, would remain at three stories.)

A somewhat taller and more dense project on the Friendship Court site is consistent with current uses surrounding the site and with several projects proposed for surrounding parcels.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a look at plans to improve connectivity.

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

Master Plan Digest: Working with the Water Infrastructure at Friendship Court

The existing water infrastructure at Friendship Court is more than 40 years old and nearing the end of its expected life. Based on the analysis conducted for this study by the Timmons Group, the design team determined that phased redevelopment should replace this infrastructure.

Replacing the water infrastructure will ensure enough capacity on-site for the number of units ultimately developed. It is important to note that water distribution and wastewater collection are currently available to support the proposed Friendship Court redevelopment.

A major infrastructure component that will not change is Pollocks Branch, a stream that passes through a buried box culvert that runs diagonally across the existing green space. Pollocks Branch is part of the City’s stormwater system, and it drains approximately 100 acres of downtown Charlottesville. Since downtown is mostly made up of impervious areas like parking lots, streets, and sidewalks, Pollocks Branch carries a large amount of water during rainstorms.

Attempting to relocate the culvert would be expensive enough to make redevelopment impossible. However, the Strategic Investment Area Plan calls for creation of a greenway across the Friendship Court site. Keeping Pollocks Branch in place and running a greenway above it as it crosses the site offers an elegant way to meet the SIA Plan’s goal.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine the planning framework that guides all aspects of the plan.

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

Master Plan Digest: On the Ground — The Physical Site Context of Friendship Court


While drafting the Master Plan, our design team identified several ways that the physical site of Friendship Court will impact redevelopment plans.

Elevation changes

The elevation of the Friendship Court site changes by as much as 35 feet from 2nd Street to 6th Street. In some instances, this elevation change may benefit the redevelopment by making it easier to building parking underneath buildings. However, it also creates challenges in how the new buildings can relate to the street level.

Regulatory Structure

Zoning allows for residential development up to 50’ high by right, higher than the current Friendship Court structures. Additional height would be allowed for buildings that have a mix of uses (for example, stores on the ground floor and apartments above). Current zoning would allow up to 505 units of housing on the property. The Strategic Investment Area plan recommends allowing higher density on the site, and the City is reviewing recommended changes in zoning.

Parking regulations

Parking requirements call for as many as 1.7 parking spots for each unit of housing. That level exceeds both current and projected future needs, and it would require additional surface parking that would force us to reduce the redeveloped site’s green space.

No Displacement

Our core commitment to no displacement of current residents, even during construction, creates a unique physical constraint by requiring that the first phase of development occur within the green space along 6th Street. In addition, other plan features—more bedrooms in the new units and the need to build around current units—have a strong impact on where and when each phase of development will occur.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see what needs to change – and what will stay the same – in the water infrastructure on site.

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