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February 2018 Redevelopment Update and Important Dates for Residents

The planning work for the redevelopment of Friendship Court continues with a community dinner this Thursday, Feb. 15 from 6-8 p.m., followed in the weeks to come by smaller meetings in each courtyard. We’re excited about improved housing for the residents and how redevelopment can help people have greater access to better jobs, education, and increased income.

Throughout redevelopment and beyond, we are committed to zero displacement. The first phase of housing will be built on the open land of the property. Once that housing is complete, some residents will move in. The first empty units will be demolished, and new housing will be built on that property. That process will repeat until all the new housing is built.

The first new housing will open in 2021. We are planning for four phases of redevelopment, with all residents in new housing by the end of the third phase. Each phase of the project will include housing affordable to a variety of income levels.

Resident Participation:

The Friendship Court Advisory Committee, which includes nine resident members, has been working to refine the plan.  We are seeking more feedback and input from the community of residents so that the architects and engineers can start their drawings for Phase 1 in April. Please join this month’s Community Gathering and Courtyard Conversations.

Important Dates:

Community Dinner: February 15, 6-8 p.m. This is your opportunity to learn, ask questions, and give feedback about the redevelopment plan with your neighbors.

Courtyard Conversations:

February 20, 6-8 p.m. in Courtyard 1: Units #400, 402, 404, 406

February 22, 6-8 p.m. in Courtyard 2:  Units#408, 410, 412, 414, 416

February 27,  6-8 p.m. in Courtyard 3:  Units #401, 403, 405, 407

March 1 , 6-8 p.m. in Courtyard 4:  Units#420, 422, 424, 426

March 3, 1-3 p.m. in Courtyard 5: Units #409, 411, 413, 415

If you have questions or comments, please contact Sunshine Mathon, executive director of Piedmont Housing Alliance at or call 434-817-0661.

The Youth Leadership Team Pays a Visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

The Youth Leadership team spent a day at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello learning about local history, architecture and landscape thanks to Piedmont Housing Alliance board member Barbara Brown Wilson. The youth asked questions and learned about Thomas Jefferson and Monticello. One question was, “how did Monticello become a site for people to visit? Who knew Monticello would be such an important place?” The group learned about the Levy family, whose vision and foresight aided the preservation of Monticello, and about many other interesting local history stories. The group even got to tour the special Dome Room, a special treat, not available to regular tour groups.

“I’ve been to Monticello several times, as had many of our young leaders. But this tour was by far my best experience, in large part to the shared love of learning exhibited between the youth leaders and our amazing tour guide, Liz Marshall. The youth leaders would bring in things they learned during the video orientation to ask complex follow-up questions during each aspect of the house tour. It was a fantastic experience,” said Barbara Brown-Wilson.

Many thanks to Monticello for a great day from Barbara, Bailey, Javisha, Jarvis, Emilee, Justin, Ty’Quan, Tianna and Claudette!

Resident Safety Meetings to be held Thursday, August 24

Dear Residents:

The recent events in Charlottesville have been very upsetting for us all. As we move forward and heal as a community, we would welcome an opportunity to have a conversation with you, our residents, regarding your thoughts and concerns about your safety, the safety of the community, and how we work together to improve our community.

The owners, along with management and the Charlottesville Police will be at the property on Thursday August 24 to meet and talk with residents.  We are planning to hold two sessions (one at noon and another at 4:00pm) to allow for a smaller personal setting for residents to express their concerns and thoughts.

Please call or stop by the rental office and let the onsite staff know which meeting you would like to attend as refreshments will be provided.

We welcome you to come and share your thoughts and concerns with us.  We look forward to having this opportunity to addressing your safety concerns.


Linda Newlen
Regional Property Manager

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.

* * *

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)

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

 * * *

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)

Master Plan Digest: What We Learned from Previous Planning Reports in Charlottesville

While preparing the master plan for redevelopment at Friendship Court, the design team reviewed a number of local plans and reports. Each of these documents offered valuable data that has begun to factor into our proposed approach, particularly with respect to housing and parking.

Some of the specific documents reviewed include the Strategic Investment Area plan (2013); Charlottesville Parking Study (2015); Housing Plan (2016); Comprehensive Housing Analysis (2015); and the Economic Development Study (2014).

In addition to studying the City’s reports related to planning frameworks, the design team also undertook physical observations of the site to understand how those frameworks intersected with physical realities.

For example, connectivity is an important theme in the planning documents. At Friendship Court, we heard from residents and neighbors that physical features such as the fence and the superblock layout cause the place to be seen as isolated and separated from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sustainability and green infrastructure are also key vision elements identified by the City in its planning initiatives. Friendship Court faces significant issues, including stormwater management and flooding on site, that could be greatly reduced or fully controlled by using green infrastructure.

What this tells us about affordable housing

  • Low-income households face the most challenging trade-offs between housing and transportation costs. Their best housing options—meaning low-cost choices—are in Albemarle and surrounding counties.
  • But those locations, which require an automobile, increase a household’s transportation costs, sometimes dramatically, and those increases can wipe out lower housing costs.
  • Designating “workforce” housing as affordable and incorporating it into our development could address a critical need in the city while supporting the “ladder of opportunity” vision for redevelopment. It may also attract city funds for streetscape and infrastructure improvements on site to achieve this important housing goal.

What this tells us about parking

  • The City-commissioned 2015 parking study recommends creation of a Parking Benefit District(s) with parking revenues dedicated to creating one or more parking facilities, supporting parking management, coordinating shared parking, improving information flow, and implementing transportation demand management.
  • The redevelopment plan tucks parking underneath the new buildings. There are many reasons to do this, most notably because it frees up land for creating public green spaces, which make the site more attractive, more appealing to live in, and can support creation of green infrastructure.

What this tells us about connectivity

  • Look for ways to change Friendship Court from an island to a connected neighborhood.
  • Increase connectivity by creating a green “corridor” across the site.
  • Extend both Hinton and Belmont avenues into Friendship Court to create new streets or pedestrian walkways, connecting Friendship Court to the Belmont neighborhood around it.

What this tells us about sustainability

  • Improve quality of life by designing the stormwater retention system to minimize flooding and runoff.
  • Increase connectivity by introducing a green corridor across the site.
  • Make the green space a true amenity that all residents—and neighbors—can actively enjoy.

* * *

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll discuss the physical site context at Friendship Court.

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