Author Archives: Cary Oliva

Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team Takes Trip to Washington, D.C.

YLT outside AA museum

The Youth Leadership Team and team leaders outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

For two days in June, the seven members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team toured our nation’s capital with several adult leaders to study urban design, architecture, and community engagement. It was the culmination of a two-year program of civic education to help empower them to be active contributors to Friendship Court’s redevelopment plan. The trip was funded by a grant given to Piedmont Housing Alliance by the Society of Architectural Historians stewarded by board members and UVA Architecture School Professors, Beth Meyer and Barbara Brown Wilson.

The grant, in the amount of $4,990, enabled the team to visit many sites in DC on June 19 and 20. They traveled to Union Station by train early Tuesday morning and enjoyed lunch there along with observing the interior architecture of the building before meeting with Equitable Development Manager, Vaughn Perry to discuss the 11th Street Bridge Park project. Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of environmental planning at the University of Virginia who traveled with the group said, “This has been a two-year program where we’ve all been learning about communities and leadership. Watching some of our recent middle school graduates asking really hard and important questions at the 11th Street Bridge Project just shows their level of sophistication.”  Ty’Quan Mayo asked, “Are they really going to build the 11th Street Bridge?” To which Vaughn Perry answered, “Yes, it better get built. We have worked too hard for this.” Observations and questions were also shared regarding the safety of the space and how emergency vehicles would access the site if needed.

Vice President of Development, Matthew Steenhoek, discusses the District Wharf project, Photo credit Peter Krebs

In the afternoon, the group met with Matthew Steenhoek, who works with PN Hoffman, the developers of DC’s District Wharf, a multi-phased, sustainable, mixed-use project. At the Wharf, they were able to observe an architectural model of the new development along the Potomac River and hear a brief discussion about urban planning and design of buildings and public spaces.  After the discussion, the youth were able to tour the Wharf and see the actual public spaces that were viewed on the architectural model.

Beth Meyer addresses the group inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Emilee and Addi

Emilee and Addi during lunch break at the museum

On day two, the youth members were given a special tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture before its usual opening time at 10 in the morning.  The group was given a chance to walk through the expansive museum to learn about our nation’s history and racial inequality.  Youth leadership team member Daemond Nowlin said, “I enjoyed reflecting on the past and learning more about my ancestors.”  After the visit to the museum, the group congregated on the grassy hill near the Washington Monument and listened to Landscape Architect Professor Beth Meyer speak about the design of public spaces and the structural relationships between other adjacent public buildings, such as the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the White House.

Beth addressing group by the Monument

Beth Meyer addressing the group near the National Monument

In the afternoon, the youth visited a housing development called SeVerna on K, which was completed in 2013 by Grimm + Parker Architects which are also the architects designing the Friendship Court redevelopment. The mixed-style and mixed-income housing complexes are located in the heart of NoMA, a vibrant, multi-generational community, and is a great example of a similar project to that of Friendship Court. Lead architect, Mel Thompson, spoke to the team about the history of the site, after the unsuccessful management of a previous housing development on the site and how now, many displaced residents have returned to the neighborhood, which includes many new amenities, access to transit, and proximity to new schools, a library and a recreation center.  The youth were filled with energy while they walked around the SeVerna on K, a project very similar to the envisioned future of Friendship Court.

Mel Thompson, lead architect, explaining some of the features of the SeVerna on K

Having the opportunity to tour a couple of apartment units and walk through the building and its amenities gave the youth team a feeling of excitement and possibility for what the future Friendship Court might feel like. The tour ended with the youth soaking in the view from the rooftop terrace. It was a wonderful way to end the two-day trip.

Thanks to all the leaders and chaperones on this trip to include, Claudette Grant, community organizer for Friendship Court, Beth Meyer, landscape architecture professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board member, Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board vice president as well as Margaret Haltom, recent UVA graduate and Peter Krebs, community outreach coordinator with Piedmont Environmental Council.

The program is equipping resident youth leaders with valuable skills, experiences, and networks to both provide input for the redevelopment and to create educational and career opportunities. Piedmont Housing Alliance remains committed to helping the Youth Leadership Team effectively provide input for the redevelopment of their community.  _______________________________________________________

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

 

 

Section 8 Renewal Approved!

Friendship Court with playground

For the last 40 years, Friendship Court has been a home for extremely low-income families due to an ongoing financial operating subsidy, federal Project-Based Section 8 rental assistance.

Just over a week ago, we received notification that a new 20-year Section 8 contract for Friendship Court was awarded!  Nearly two years ago, knowing the original Section 8 contract expired this year, we began planning for this new contract.  We are deeply excited that families at Friendship Court have certainty their housing is secure for many years to come.

Why is this important?

The Section 8 contract is important for two reasons.  First, planning a balanced operating budget is critical to long-term financial sustainability for the property.  Second, providing homes for extremely low-income families with rents they can afford requires operational subsidy.  This post will take a look at how Section 8 rental assistance helps balance operating expenses with income sources.

Operating expenses

Operating expenses include debt payments, onsite staff salaries, saving for long-term replacement reserves, and many other costs.  With the exception of debt payments, which can be controlled through subsidizing construction costs, operating expenses generally stay the same no matter how deeply affordable a community is.  In other words, operating expenses stay steady, regardless of how much rent residents pay.

Income source

On the other side of the scale is the primary income source—rental income paid by the families who live in the community.  Because families pay no more than a federally-mandated 30% of their income towards rent when living in subsidized affordable housing, the total amount of rental income to the property depends on the depth of affordability in the community.  In other words, rental income to the property can change dramatically based on the income of residents.

How this works

Generally speaking, with deep construction subsidies keeping debt payments low, operating expenses and rental income can be balanced when the average family in a property has an income of ~50% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

In Charlottesville, if a family of three has a 50% AMI income, they make ~$38,400/year.  As they would pay no more than 30% of their income towards housing, after accounting for utility costs, their monthly rent would be ~$750/month.

At Friendship court, the average family has an income of ~$11,000/year, which is ~15% AMI.  This income translates to an allowable rent close to ~$150/month.  This reduced rental income creates an operating deficit of ~$600/month per apartment.  The resulting rental income to the property is not nearly enough to balance the property’s operating expenses.

Section 8 operating subsidy

The Project-Based Section 8 operating subsidy received from HUD bridges the gap between the operating costs of the property and the available rental income. The renewed 20-year Section 8 contract guarantees affordable rents to the families who call Friendship Court home!

Community Gathering Held at Friendship Court

full tent On Friday, June 8, Friendship Court residents gathered for a summer Community Gathering. Residents of Friendship Court along with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff and board members enjoyed spending time together with surrounding neighbors. Kids played, got their faces painted, and enjoyed music, participated in raffles, and ate some food off the grill. “Though the weather was a little unpredictable at the start, those that came out for the event seemed to have a great time,” said Executive Director Sunshine Mathon.

Sunshine and gang

Residents got to learn more about the feedback from Piedmont Housing Alliance’s recent resident survey efforts on different areas including housing types, open spaces, and early childhood education.  They are very grateful for the residents’ participation which is helping shape the plans for the redevelopment of Friendship Court and its future.

Facepainted attendeeDenise from PVCCDenise McClanahan, outreach manager at PVCC, was available to speak with about upcoming classes and programs as well as the Office of Human Rights with the City of Charlottesville who was offering information about upcoming events they are offering. Dinner was provided by Mel’s and Afghan Kabob. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Expressions Face Painting, Coria RVA was once again our DJ, the Party Starts Here, and Virginia Tent Rental.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “The Community Gatherings are a great way to get know the residents, and they are fun too! We are so grateful to our partners, both businesses and individuals that work as a team to make the Community Gatherings happen. We look forward to having one again in the Fall.”

DJ

Facepainted kids

Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community gatherings and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center. Piedmont Housing is grateful to our residents, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, and the Youth Leadership Team for ongoing guidance and support in preparing for these gatherings. To stay connected to happenings in the community, sign up for e-news here, see the monthly newsletters here and follow us on Facebook.

Happy Summer!

 

CHiP Neighborhood Outreach Stays Busy Helping Families with Their Health Improvement Program

Ciera, Family Support Worker does a home visit

Ciera, Family Support Worker does a home visit

Piedmont Housing Alliance connects with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to the people we serve. CHiP is one of those partners, providing services to children and families throughout the area, including Friendship Court.

On any given day, you are likely to see a member of the CHiP Neighborhood Outreach team in a downtown neighborhood – visiting families at home, attending community events, or facilitating groups for teens and/or parents with young children.  Nurse Jessica might be checking in on a new mom to see how mom and baby are doing at home and answer questions about breast-feeding or how to know when to call the doctor. Naasira, one of the team’s family support workers, might be visiting a family with a busy toddler, bringing ideas for age-appropriate activities that can be created from simple household items.

Torri, Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator. Naasira, Family Support Worker and Regina, Community Health Educator help at market day in Friendship Court, photo credit Kayli Wren of Charlottesville Tomorrow

Torri, Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator. Naasira, Family Support Worker and Regina, Community Health Educator help at market day in Friendship Court, photo credit Kayli Wren of Charlottesville Tomorrow

CHiP is the Children’s Health Improvement Program.  Their mission is to partner with families to create nurturing home environments and promote the health and well-being of children in our community.  The CHiP program is completely voluntary and designed to serve families with children age 0-6.

Through home visits, CHIP works with children and parents in their own environment, eliminating the need to find transportation or childcare.  Home visits allow the entire family to participate. Meeting families where they live in those critical early years of a child’s life has proven to be the most effective model for helping kids grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in school and in life.

CHiP’s dedicated teams of community health nurses and professional family support workers meet with families to:

·        Promote family health and well-being through health assessments, health education, and facilitating access to health care.

·        Enhance parenting skills and confidence through a developmentally appropriate curriculum and building nurturing relationships.

·        Foster self-sufficiency by partnering with families to set goals, solve problems, and connect with community resources.

In light of the challenges our community faced in 2017, CHiP recognized that a distrust of systems and institutions are a barrier to health and well-being and contributes to racial disparities in care and health outcomes. Thanks to a grant from the Adiuvans Foundation, CHiP launched the Neighborhood Outreach Project, placing a team downtown dedicated to serving historically African American neighborhoods. In addition to the nurse/family support worker team, three part-time health educators were hired from within the community, all with the goal of building relationships and being a trusted neighborhood resource.

Teen Outreach and Neighborhood Outreach Project Coordinator, Torri Ayers, says, “We want to help parents be the best they can be, but it takes time for them to trust us. So we just keep showing up, without judgment, as a friendly, helpful neighbor.”

Bubble wands activity at Westhaven

Bubble wands activity at Westhaven

Torri has also been co-facilitating the girls group, Sisters of Nia, with City of Promise, and has started two more girls groups in Greenstone and Friendship Court. While CHiP’s Parenteen program provides unique support for pregnant and parenting teens, Torri’s work with pre-teen and teen girls is designed for prevention and long-term impact.  “I want to help these girls think differently, to expose them to new ideas and experiences so they can expand their imagination, hopes, and dreams for themselves and their family.”

 

CHiP means children’s health. If you want to learn more about CHiP or how to enroll in the program, visit www.jachip.org or call: 434-964-4700.

 

Behind the Scenes of C4K with Johnny (12) From Friendship Court

C4K-Learning-Partners-Basir-_-Luke-in-mentor-Studio-Photo-Credit-Johnny-web

C4K Learning Lab partners

C4K provides enriching programming in our community for kids like Johnny, a teenager at Friendship Court. We asked Liz Hoeppner, grants and communication manager at C4K, to share information with us about the program.

In the heart of IX Park, every day after school, youth and their mentors make digital apps, music, videos, robots, rockets, video games, websites, 3D models and forever friends. C4K (Computers4Kids) youth member and Friendship Court resident, Johnny, aged 12, has been documenting a ‘behind the scenes’ view of C4K life.

Tyrann C4K Member and Friendship Court Resident in Video Studio

“I love to meet with my mentor, Juan. He cares about me. We just finished building a scavenger-hunt video game together using Roblox. I am also developing my photography portfolio.” – Johnny.

Juandiego R. Wade

“C4K is a place for my boy to flourish. I love it. C4K is a place where being a nerd, is totally cool.” – Shay, Johnny’s mom & Friendship Court resident.

Elesia-C4K-Member-in-Audio-Studio-Sound-Booth-Photo-Credit-Johnny-web

Elesia in Audio Studio at C4K

“Charlottesville Schools depend on strong evidence-based programs like C4K to supplement what we do every day in the classroom. It is a joy and privilege for me to be a supporter and mentor with C4K.” – Juandiego R. Wade, Johnny’s mentor & Charlottesville School Board Member.

C4K (Computers4Kids) is an out-of-school mentoring nonprofit. We want our youth members to have choice in their lives, as choice represents freedom. We provide the knowledge, experiences, and skills – through mentorship and high-quality, STEAM-based programming – for middle and high school youth from low-income families to have choice. All projects are youth-driven, fun, project-based and directly applicable to real-world opportunities. Since opening in 2001, 97% of our youth have graduated from high school (local rate: 85%), and 92% went on to college.

Eniya C4K Member in Clubhouse

Eniya C4K Member in Clubhouse

All our programming is FREE. We offer:

●       One-to-one mentoring.
●       Drop-in group mentoring.
●       Camps, workshops, job shadowing, field trips.
●       Youth leadership on our Youth Council.
●       Access to industry-level software, Video & Audio Production Suites, Engineering & Robotics Lab, Clubhouse Makerspace and Mentor Studio.
●       Self-paced, self-guided projects.
●       A free laptop.

C4K is actively recruiting new youth members and volunteer mentors!

– Visit us: 945 Second St, SE, Charlottesville, VA 22902.
– Explore our space: here.
– Become a volunteer mentor: http://bit.ly/c4kmentor
– Become a youth member: http://bit.ly/c4kmember
– Support our work: http://bit.ly/supportC4k

All photos in this post were taken by Johnny.

ReadySteps from ReadyKids, An Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

Piedmont Housing Alliance partners with several area nonprofits to bring enriching support to our client families. ReadyKids is one of those partners, providing services to children who live in Piedmont Housing Alliance supported housing, such as Friendship Court. We asked Shannon Banks, program manager for ReadySteps to share information with us about the program, and what ReadyKids provides the children at Friendship Court.

The ReadySteps Program at ReadyKids
By Shannon Banks, ReadySteps Program Manager

Every Tuesday morning, kids ages zero to five and their parents bounce into the Friendship Court Community Center ready for two hours of fun with the ReadySteps program at ReadyKids. The ReadySteps program takes a family-centered, holistic approach to school readiness, and supports the entire family to be ready for school. We support kids to develop the skills they need to enter school ready to learn, and we empower parents by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to support their child’s growth and development. In addition, we work to connect families to the resources they need to reach their goals, and help them to identify and address concerns.

How does ReadySteps Help Kids?

When our kids aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, they fail or fall behind. When our parents aren’t ready with the tools they need to succeed, it is much more difficult for them to support their children. We know that kids who participate in high quality early childhood education programs enter school better prepared and are more successful than their peers who have not had those opportunities. We know that having a primary caregiver with whom they have a strong, positive and nurturing relationship is critical to kids’ optimal growth and development. And we also know that when caregivers are supported to understand how their child is growing and developing, build relationships with neighbors, and are able to access to community resources, they are better equipped to make choices and decisions that help propel their kids to success.

What happens during a ReadySteps Playgroup?

Through play kids learn about how the world and its people work. Jen Fenerty (Group Leader), Margot Pleasants (Educator), and Laura Somel (Family Coordinator), design and facilitate activities aimed at supporting child and adult growth in all areas of their life. Circle time offers the opportunity to come together and work as a group, and to practice taking turns and following directions. Stations with different educational activities allow kids the opportunity to make a choice, and decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, within the established limits and boundaries of playgroup.  They also provide parents the opportunity to follow their child’s lead, and become engrossed in play. Activities such as these, and many more, provide the foundation for learning basic math and literacy skills, such as counting and letter recognition.

How does ReadySteps Help Parents?

Our parent support and education activities give parents the opportunity to shine as the expert on their kids, learn new skills, and give feedback on the program. We collaborate with other programs and agencies including the Healthy Families Program, Women’s Initiative, PB&J Fund, Infant and Toddler Connection of the Blue Ridge, Charlottesville City Schools, and CHiP to provide information and services to empower parents. We also host a monthly Parent Advisory Committee, complete developmental screenings, and share helpful parenting information and ways to extend the playgroup learning experience at home. Kids do not come with an instruction manual, and everyone needs someone to support and encourage them.  ReadySteps works to do just that.

How do I get involved?

The ReadySteps program is free, and all parents or caregivers and their kids ages birth to age 5 years are welcome to join us. Our next playgroup is Tuesday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m.!

Girls at Friendship Court Benefit from Girls’ Mentoring Program

Mentoring

Each week, approximately eight to 10 girls from the Friendship Court community come together at the community center for an after-school mentoring program taught by Community Center Coordinator, Jessica Eldridge. Jessica, the founder of Impact My Life Mentoring, LLC says, “I believe even the slightest positive influence has the potential to change a child’s life.”

Starting in the fall of 2017 Jessica has led the girls in empowering activities and discussions about what it means to have self-confidence and self-esteem. During one of their discussions, the girls talked about how to distinguish between a friend and a frenemy (someone who acts as a friend, but when not around you, they do unfriendly things behind your back).

Girls mentoring

During another activity, the girls went outside and took five pictures of themselves, or five selfies, to create a group selfie art gallery. Then the girls wrote down a compliment about themselves on each picture. This small gesture allowed them time to think about who they are and how they are important, finding something to celebrate about themselves and share with others. On Diamond Keyes’ picture she wrote, “I like myself because I have a good personality and I am pretty, and I won’t think differently.”

Galentine's 4

Galentine's 1In January, the girls focused on New Year’s resolutions and what they hope to accomplish in the New Year.  Many of them talked about how they hope to do well in their next quarter of school and how they want to work towards getting good grades.  Then, in February, they celebrated “Galentine’s Day,” an unofficial holiday held on the day before Valentine’s Day in which ladies, young and old, celebrate themselves and others. In that session, they discussed the importance of making and having good friends as well as what types of characteristics they like to find in a good friend. They discussed positive qualities about themselves and how it felt when they looked in the mirror. Then the girls designed their own personal mirrors with paint, glitter, and stickers and enjoyed a meal together.

Jefferson Area CHIP has been partnering with the group as well. Their mission is to partner with families to create nurturing home environments and promote the health and well-being of children in our community.  Jessica says the girls have been enjoying their insight into their discussions and it also allows them room to interact with different people whom they’ve never met before – adults and young girls alike.

Jessica says, “The goal in teaching this program is for the girls to create a space that is all their own where they are free to express themselves in the way that they want without judgement from other people.”

She added that she has had some very proud moments so far with the girls and that she hopes to keep up the mentoring sessions for the foreseeable future.

 

 

ACAC Coordinates Holiday Gift Drive for Friendship Court Families

Thanks to the ACAC Downtown team and community, families at Friendship Court received gifts through a special drive organized by the neighboring athletic center to help bring joy to the neighborhood children. “ACAC has been a wonderful community partner in making sure many of the children and families who live at Friendship Court are able to enjoy Christmas in a special way,” said Claudette Grant, Friendship Court community organizer.

As one mother said, “ACAC outdid themselves this year. My children received so many amazing gifts. We are set for several months because of the generosity of this community.”  The gifts are much appreciated. For many of the Friendship Court families, Christmas would be difficult without the generosity and support of ACAC Downtown. The staff and patrons of ACAC not only give so freely of their time to make sure this event happens every Christmas, but they take the act of giving to a higher level. On several occasions, members of the athletic center checked in with staff to make sure families in need received the items requested or would have enough assistance to put together certain toys. “It is nice to know we have so many angels in our community who make sure Christmas is joyous for several happy little ones,” said Claudette.

Thanks to Paul Kyriacopoulos, assistant general manager, who with his team, organize and deliver hundreds of gifts for Friendship Court residents each December. Thanks ACAC community!

 

Friendship Court Advisory Committee Takes Tour of Four Communities in Washington, DC

bus tour outside bus tourOn November 29, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee took a field trip to Washington, DC to view four different housing developments that are considered relevant to the Friendship Court redevelopment plan. Five resident participants, including two of the youth leaders, three other Friendship Court Advisory Committee members, several Piedmont Housing Alliance board members and staff as well as architects with Grimm + Parker, traveled around the city to get an in-depth look at what the future redevelopment of Friendship Court could include. As the Advisory Committee works towards refining the framework provided by the Master Plan, they are participating in a series of design workshops or charrettes with Grimm + Parker.  This tour of several mixed-income developments helped give the resident participants a better understanding of the Friendship Court project, and opportunities for how they may want to live, work, and play in downtown Charlottesville. 

The group began their tour at a National Housing Trust-Enterprise site, Monseñor Romero Apartments, located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of DC. The National Housing Trust-Enterprise, Piedmont Housing Alliance’s partner, gave the group a tour of the property, originally built in 1908.  After a five-alarm fire destroyed the apartments in 2008, they were redeveloped with financial help from NHT-Enterprise.  All of the Monseñor Romero Apartment units are set aside for households earning no more than 60% of the area median income.  The returning residents had rents established based on 30% of a household’s income through an internal subsidy program.  The building was renamed Monseñor Romero Apartments after the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador, who was an advocate against poverty and social injustice. Participants enjoyed learning about this story and the commitment to the returning residents, and also enjoyed visiting the rooftop garden with views of northwest Washington, DC.

The second stop on the bus tour took the group to visit a development designed by Grimm + Parker just three years ago called The SeVerna and the SeVerna on K Street, in downtown DC.  Situated in the area known as NoMA, it is a multi-generational community made up of two separate buildings accommodating studios, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, offering affordable and market rate units.  The development is located right next to public housing.  The buildings, part of a larger master plan for the area, are helping to revitalize a city block between housing, schools, and transportation hubs.  At this location, the participants were able to view the interior of one of the two-bedroom apartments and get a feel for the layout. The group embraced the design and scale of the two over two townhome-style units with a front and rear access. They also heard more about life at The SeVerna from a current resident during lunch, giving them a better feel for what life is really like there and in the neighborhood, both before and after the redevelopment.

bus tour in DC 4The Summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

bus tour in DC 3bus tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was The Summit at St. Martin’s, a 184-unit apartment building in a residential area in Northeast DC that accommodates a unique community of work force and transitional housing with affordable rents. It is a four-story building above a one-story parking garage.  While this development has less in common with the proposed plan for Friendship Court, one of the more interesting aspects of this property was its underground parking garage.  Seeing this parking option up close gave the group a chance to see how it is secured, accessed, and used for residents and others on a day-to-day basis. There were also outside, above-ground courtyard areas that demonstrated unique uses of space.  Some mentioned how much they enjoyed the common areas and other features, such as street-level walk-in units and a café room.

Old Town commons

The final stop on the tour was Old Town Commons in Alexandria, comprised of newly constructed affordable and market-rate townhomes.  In partnership with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, EYA redeveloped five city blocks once home to 194 units of aging public housing. The newly-constructed rental homes blend in seamlessly along Old Town’s historic streets, connecting a metro station to the Potomac River. This project achieved LEED certification which has significantly enhanced the living experience for the city’s residents, including central air and heat and in-unit washers and dryers.  The scale of this property seemed to be consistent with Charlottesville. This mix of townhomes and multi-family buildings provides renters and home owners with choices in the type of housing that best works for families, singles, and seniors both in terms of design and affordability.  Areas of focus in the development of Old Town Commons included interconnected streets and alleys, and walking them helped demonstrate connectivity within the neighborhood.

inside at bus tour

“The group has a much better understanding now of the proposed project and how it fits in an urban community.  They also better understand that they are not alone in helping solve the residential urban condition,” said lead architect Mel Thompson of Grimm + Parker.  Mel was very involved in the development of The SeVerna and The SeVerna on K Street and shared much of his first-hand knowledge about working on this project.

Project Manager, Beth Kennan added, “It was just a great opportunity for residents, board members, staff, consultants, and partners to actually come together and view relevant projects together. None of these projects is exactly what the Friendship Court redevelopment will look like, but each featured unique elements, and it was a great visioning opportunity.”

bus tour inside

The day after the bus tour, the Advisory Committee participated in a follow up design charrette.  This gave them an opportunity to translate their aspirations and observations into constructive dialogue around the site plan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Many of them commented on how they realize better now, as a result of the bus tour, how a mixed-income redevelopment is achievable for Friendship Court. The group split up into two groups to work on further developing the different plans to highlight the priorities for the project.

Many thanks to our partners Grimm + Parker, NHT-Enterprise, as well as EYA for these informative and exciting site visits.

In January / February 2018, the committee will review plans derived from design charrettes informed by these site visits.  Soon after, discussions with the broader community of Friendship Court residents will take place in order to make sure everyone has a chance to provide input in shaping the new community plan.

For more information, contact Sunshine Mathon at smathon@piedmonthousing.org.

Light House Studio Partners with Friendship Court’s Youth Leadership Team

lighthouse with zoe

On the heels of the Virginia Film Festival, where many youth present their film projects they have participated in through the Adrenaline Film Project, is a story about aspiring filmmakers that make up the Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court.

During the summer months, Light House Studio partnered with the Youth Leadership Team at Friendship Court to teach them self-expression through the art of film.  Zoe Cohen, former managing director, worked with the youth as part of an ongoing program entitled Keep It REEL, which is offered to youth in Charlottesville’s local community centers and schools.​ In addition to teaching the youth many diverse technical skills (cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound design), Zoe worked with the students to develop soft skills for the job market.  claudette being interviewedfilming day

The Keep It REEL workshop, which is a focus on documentary filmmaking, began with a discussion about the types and stages of filmmaking. The Youth Leadership Team watched a variety of short documentaries to learn about camera angles and how different framing affects what the filmmakers wish to convey to the audience. Viewing and discussing documentaries also taught the students the valuable skill of critiquing. This process also helped them gather ideas for their own films. The subsequent three sessions were dedicated to brainstorming ideas, writing interview questions, as well as learning about the equipment and how to work as a team. Once pre-production was complete the group began production – working as a crew to film each other’s mini-documentaries. The youth took turns as Director, Camera Operator, Sound Recordist, Slate Operator, and Interviewer.

Zoe said, “It was exciting to see the range of story ideas from personal stories to short films about hopes and dreams for the future of Friendship Court.” The Youth Leadership Team worked very hard during their final stage of filmmaking: editing. Students spent many weeks editing their documentaries and learning how to craft their story, in addition to adding sound, music, and titles.

Javisha editting

The Light House Studio program concluded in October with an intimate celebratory screening at Light House Studio’s Vinegar Hill Theatre where they got to view the final projects they worked very hard to craft.

billboard sign