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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)

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)

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.

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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 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)

Master Plan Digest: The Ladder of Affordable Housing Opportunity

The redeveloped Friendship Court will provide three tiers of affordable housing, as well as market-rate units, in order to serve families with different income levels.

Housing affordability is measured in relation to area median income (AMI), a number determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to represent a typical annual household income for a local area. In 2015, the Charlottesville AMI was $77,800.

Affordable Housing: Section 8

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at or below 30% of AMI. Up to $28,000 in income; rents up to $650 for a family of four. Typical jobs include food servers, waiter/waitress, home health aide, and bus driver.

How it works: Each family pays 30% of its income for rent. Rent payments are tied to income and can shift up or down each month. Friendship Court has a designated fair market rent (FMR) of approximately $800 per unit per month that the federal government determines is enough to cover operating expenses. A federal subsidy covers the difference between the FMR and the portion paid by the tenant.

Affordable Housing: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at 60% of AMI and below. Up to $40,000 in income; rents up to $1,000 for a family of four. Typical jobs include mechanic, school teacher, police officer, and administrative assistant.

How it works: Families pay a fixed affordable rent. LIHTC units must be rented to low income families at affordable rents, but unlike Section 8 rents don’t change with a family income.

Affordable Housing: Subsidized Workforce

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at or below 80% of AMI. Up to $60,000 in income; rents up to $1,600 for a family of four. Typical jobs include post-secondary instructor, landscape architect, physician’s assistant, dental hygienist, and bank teller.

How it works: Families whose incomes are above LIHTC income limits but not sufficient to afford market rents are eligible for workforce housing. This type of housing has no federal subsidies and targets families between 60% and 100% AMI.

Market Rate

Who it’s for: Families with incomes at 100% of AMI and more is where market-rate developers are targeting rents. Above $75,000 in income; rents up to $2,400 for a family of four. Typical jobs include lawyer, software engineer, accountant, and upper management.

How it works: Demand in the market sets rents. The proposed redevelopment would have amenities and unit sizes to make it competitive with other market-rate developments. The amenities need to attract market-rate renters, but are open and available to all residents at all rent levels. This type of housing has no federal subsidies.

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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 previous local planning reports contributed to the Friendship Court Master Plan.

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

Master Plan Digest: How Does the Local Housing Market Affect Redevelopment at Friendship Court?

Based on what we learned from residents and from a 2016 housing study commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, we believe a mixed-income development at Friendship Court will best serve the needs of current residents as well as many other local families.

Affordable Housing: Economic Mobility

What we learned: Residents want a better quality of life, but feel that “the system” makes it hard to move up.

Those interviewed often expressed high aspirations but also a feeling that they are limited by institutional constraints, from Section 8 to childcare costs to limited employment options. Gains made in one area cause repercussions in others; they could never get ahead. Although Friendship Court is seen as better than public housing, many feel “stuck” here.

What that tells us: Many believe mixed-income housing can provide access to opportunities, but it must also include paths to economic mobility.

Affordable Housing: Charlottesville Housing Study

What we learned: According to the City of Charlottesville’s 2016 housing study, the city has a critical shortage of low-income housing.

The city’s most underserved households are those with the lowest incomes. Recommendations from the study include

  • increasing “workforce” housing options;
  • supporting initiatives that preserve and expand rental opportunities for those who earn less than 60% of AMI (area median income); and
  • supporting environmentally friendly, resource-efficient and pedestrian-/transit-oriented neighborhood designs.

What that tells us: Residents whose income exceeds the Section 8 limits have few other affordable housing options within Charlottesville. This often means they must move to the county and beyond, where there are fewer jobs and greater transportation costs.

About the Economics of the Development

Friendship Court will be a ground-breaking development in terms of its economic model. Mixed-income developments completed to date have typically involved former public housing sites redeveloped with substantial federal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhoods or Rental Assistance Demonstration programs.

Without access to these resources, Piedmont Housing Alliance, as a private, nonprofit developer, will pursue a host of partnerships, programs and funders to complete revitalization of the site. This unique circumstance puts added importance on the proposed income mix. Approximately one-fourth of the units at the redeveloped Friendship Court will be designated for the lowest-income households with the heaviest rent burdens. Section 8 assistance for 150 low-income units allows for much-needed deeply affordable rents while providing the subsidy to offset the operating costs for those units.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units will allow an additional level of affordability for those with incomes greater than the Section 8 limits. This will allow current residents who are upwardly mobile or other low-income families in search of affordable housing to remain in the city, where affordable apartments are extremely difficult to find.

Workforce units will fill a niche for families with incomes above the LIHTC income limits but still unable to afford market rents. The 2016 RCLCO housing study, commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, specifically calls out housing within this income band as a neglected market segment and in high demand.

The RCLCO study also clearly shows a growing demand for downtown, market-rate rental units. These market-rate units are crucial to the success of the Friendship Court redevelopment, as they will cross-subsidize the more affordable units and act as a catalyst for development of retail and other amenities on site, a benefit to every income level.

Friendship Court will also help the City surpass the goals set out in its 2025 Goals for Affordable Housing by increasing affordable housing for those who live and/or work in the city and are part of households with incomes of up to 80% of AMI (area median income); preserving and expanding rental opportunities for residents who earn less than 60% of AMI; and incorporating environmentally friendly, energy- and resource-efficient and pedestrian-/transit-oriented neighborhood design, building technologies and infrastructure.

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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 how affordable housing options should match up to different income levels.

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

Master Plan Digest: 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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What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

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)