Author Archives: LaTasha Durrett

The Next Steps in Friendship Court Redevelopment

The next major milestone for Piedmont Housing Alliance and the continuing progress towards Friendship Court redevelopment is submitting the application for the highly competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

The U.S. Treasury Department sponsors the LIHTC program and it is administered at the state level by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).  The program helps fund the development of affordable rental housing across the country by providing federal income tax credits that can be sold to corporations with large tax burdens.  The sale proceeds then directly subsidize construction costs, ensuring long-term affordability.

The LIHTC program application is due March 14.  The full 2019 application schedule is available to view. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the LIHTC program “gives State and local LIHTC-allocating agencies the equivalent of nearly $8 billion in annual budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households.”

Recognizing the importance and competitiveness of this funding, we have pulled together a well-seasoned and insightful team of consultants to help craft the lengthy application, including representatives from Klein Hornig, Virginia Commonwealth Development Corp., Joseph Browne Development Associates, and our partner NHT Communities

Why is this so important for the redevelopment of Friendship Court?  The LIHTC funding is the critical funding that tips the scale.  As part of the LIHTC application, the resident-elected Advisory Committee and Piedmont Housing had to make a series of important final decisions for Phase 1 including finalizing the number of new apartment-style and townhome-style homes, the interior layout of the apartments, materials to be used on the exterior of the buildings, etc.

The LIHTC funding submission is just one update that you will hear from us this year.  Looking ahead, we also have plans to install a new temporary “Tiny Office” to provide a new Economic Opportunity Coordinator a space to begin work with the residents at Friendship Court.

Currently, Piedmont Housing Alliance does not manage Friendship Court, but that is scheduled to change in May. We are working closely with current property manager, Edgewood Management, on the transition.  Stay tuned for more information on the coming change.

Follow the Drum

If you visit the Friendship Court Community Center on Thursdays, you may be greeted by the sound of drumming and joyous laughter and chatter.

Saman Dashti, also known as Macaco Nova York, makes it a point to volunteer at Friendship Court once a week in some capacity, not an easy commitment because he travels regularly and is also a Capoeira enthusiast and instructor. Dashti discovered the Friendship Court community when he first moved to Charlottesville with his wife. “I moved here and figured out what was going on and came here [to volunteer],” he said.

Dashti said he was surprised back then that there were not more groups and individuals volunteering their time and talents at Friendship Court, but said that he thinks that with the redevelopment others will want to come to the community.

Naylia was one attendee, of about seven participants, at a recent session and said she comes every week that Dashti is present because it is fun. When asked what kind of music she likes she said hip hop and “the music we make.”

Naylia enjoys working with Saman.
Naylia enjoys working with Saman.

Dashti’s program consist of drumming, education on beats and rhythms and movement. On this particular day, he mentioned that Ms. Sheri, Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Community Outreach Assistant (and resident member of the Friendship Court Advisory Committee), will be making new shields used in a dance with the youth.

Dashti recognizes the importance of afrocentric programs in predominately black communities and touts them as motivation for kids living there. While emphasis is often put on athletic and STEM programs, he is furthering the arts as a means to an end to introduce kids to themselves and the music they can make themselves.

After drumming, kids and their families can enjoy warm meals provided for the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Piedmont Housing Alliance, catered by JBD Mobile Catering. Friendship Court residents can learn more about this and other programs by contacting Claudette Grant at 434-422-4846.

Saman and his wife teach youth how to make beats and music.

A Look Back at 2018 with the Friendship Court Advisory Committee

The Friendship Court redevelopment plan made tremendous progress in 2018. The year was focused on reflection and collaboration with an eye toward the future by working with the resident-led Friendship Court Advisory Committee to further the redevelopment plan and hear from all residents.

Community Engagement

We kicked off 2018 with our Courtyard Conversations series with Friendship Court residents. During these conversations, the Advisory Committee, sought feedback and input from residents on a revised site plan framework so that the architects and engineers could start drawings for Phase 1 of the redevelopment. The series kicked off in mid-February with a community dinner and then five smaller sessions were held for residents to attend in February and March. After the community gatherings, Claudette, with the help of others, went door to door to solicit as much additional input as possible.

Refining the Redevelopment Plan

The commitment to a redevelopment plan with zero displacement of residents continued in 2018 and in early June we finalized the site plan framework that addressed significant community concerns from the 2016 preliminary master plan, including reducing the number of phases, moving the early childhood center to Phase 1, and including townhomes as well as multifamily apartment-style buildings. The revised plan aims to have all Friendship Court families in their new homes within seven years.

In September, we submitted the Phase 1 Site Plan to the City for review and approval in preparation for applying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits in March 2019. The goal is for the site plan to be approved in February.

Other 2018 milestones include:

  • JulySection 8 renewal approved. In July we received notification that the new 20-year, Section 8 contract for Friendship Court was awarded. The Project-Based Section 8 operating subsidy received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bridges the gap between the operating costs of the property and the available rental income.
  • AugustAdvisory Committee selected Harkins Builders as General Contractor. The Advisory Committee chose Harkins Builders as the general contractor for pre-construction services for Phase One of the redevelopment. The process, which lasted throughout the summer of 2018, began with Piedmont Housing Alliance publishing a Request for Proposal (RFP), inviting qualified general contractors to apply. Piedmont Housing staff and the Friendship Court Advisory Committee reviewed proposals and conducted interviews with each builder interested in the work. Each firm went before the Advisory Committee and gave a presentation on their experience and a narrative on how they would approach the Friendship Court redevelopment.
  • OctoberPlans for maintaining green space during development revealed. The Advisory Committee worked with architects Grimm + Parker and engineer Timmons Group to balance the need for high-quality outdoor spaces with a limited land area.
  • NovemberPiedmont Housing recognized with Virginia Housing Award.  Recognized for its leadership in resident-led planning and design, Piedmont Housing Alliance was awarded a 2018 Virginia Housing Inclusive Communities Award for its work at Friendship Court at the annual Virginia Governors Housing Conference.

Looking ahead

In 2019, we look forward to finalizing floor plans, finalizing the building exterior architecture, and detailing the final components of Phase 1, including outdoor play and amenity spaces for the community. Further, we will apply for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by the March deadline with the goal of beginning construction in early 2020.