Category Archives: Master Plan

Friendship Court Advisory Committee Selects Harkins Builders as General Contractor



The Friendship Court Advisory Committee selected 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 an 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.  At the conclusion of the interviews, the Committee discussed the merits of each firm. After much deliberation, the Advisory Committee selected Harkins Builders due to their deep experience and clear commitment to building high quality affordable housing.

Harkins Builders, based in Columbia, Md. has a large dedicated division focused on the construction of affordable housing throughout the mid-Atlantic region, from Baltimore to Richmond to Charlotte to Philadelphia. Their expertise and organizational dedication to developing affordable housing is the primary reason the company was selected to work with the Advisory Committee and the rest of the design team to begin the redevelopment of Friendship Court.

Master Plan Digest: Proposed Site Plan

Our design team’s site plan recommendations for redevelopment at Friendship Court were shaped by a variety of issues and concerns for current and future residents, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the financial realities of redevelopment.

Below, you’ll see some of the considerations that influenced the proposed number of buildings, their size, and placement on the site. As the design process moves forward, the details of these areas will be more fully defined.

What we heard: Residents believe that mixed-income redevelopment may mean access to additional opportunities for their children.
What we propose: Introduce amenities and services throughout the site.

What we heard: More than 50% of current residents are under 18. Kids at Friendship Court start school two years behind their peers in learning skills.
What we propose: Create a world-class Early Childhood Center that not only serves Friendship Court but also the surrounding areas.

What we found out: We can’t build over Pollocks Branch, and it would cost too much to move it.
What we propose: Organize buildings around the underground channel so that Pollocks Branch can run through the side unimpeded.

What we heard: Existing courtyards cater mainly to young children.
What we propose: Create courtyards with discrete, secure spaces that serve a diversity of users. Include amenities such as grills and plants.

What we heard: The community garden has a long history within the community.
What we propose: Relocate the garden to honor the “no displacement of current residents” pledge, but give it a place of prominence as part of the new public green.

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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 decision-making process for green infrastructure on the site.

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

Master Plan Digest: Amenities for Residents and Neighbors

The site design for redevelopment will provide indoor and outdoor amenities for residents as well as for people who don’t live in Friendship Court. The outdoor activities residents asked for require a variety of settings—semi-private internal courtyards, sidewalks and pathways where people can run into each other, and a single green “commons” large enough for the entire community to gather.

A large park will provide open space for recreational and passive uses for both residents and neighbors, while courtyards will provide private outdoor space for residents (many of whom expressed preference for private outdoor space in addition to public shared space). These courtyards will feature private patio space for residential units abutting the courtyard and shared patio spaces for all building residents. These areas will be able to accommodate garden plots and outdoor grilling facilities.

Some buildings may feature rooftop amenity decks where residents will have access to tables, gardens and views of the area. Courtyards and decks will be accessible only to tenants and located behind gates requiring keys. The interiors of the new buildings will also feature amenities including lobbies for residential tenants and an indoor recreation facility or basketball court.

The park will be designed to accommodate a variety of uses that stakeholders have suggested, including the relocation of urban agriculture, outdoor basketball courts and open green space. This area is located adjacent to the residential neighborhoods to the east in order to become a central place of connection for residents and neighbors.

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll review some of the key issues that shaped the proposed site plan.

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

Master Plan Digest: Decision Pathway — Parking

The Master Plan for redevelopment at Friendship Court calls for “podium” parking structures to be located below the new buildings. It’s not the easiest or least expensive parking option, so why did we choose it? Below, you’ll see the research and analysis that led to this design decision.

Who/what we engaged

  • Friendship Court Residents
  • City staff
  • Charlottesville Parking Study
  • SIA Plan
  • Examples from other low-income housing projects (e.g., Choice Neighborhoods)

What we learned

  • Current residents are concerned with safety related to parking.
  • Some residents expressed concern about the safety of below-grade parking.
  • Residents of every age prefer having “open space” to surface parking.
  • Several neighbors expressed strong preferences for housing, retail, community services, or other activities lining streets surrounding or crossing the site.
  • The SIA calls for a continuous greenway across the Friendship Court site.

What that tells us

  • Despite its lower cost, surface parking does not represent an acceptable strategy because it would drastically reduce the amount of open space available for residents.
  • Evidence indicates that secure structured above- or below-grade parking—with “keyed” entry, security cameras, good management and direct keyed elevator access to apartments located above—does not present safety issues.
  • Curbside parking along Fourth Street and Hinton Ave would make it more convenient to visit residents, retail, the Early Childhood Center and other services on the site.

Possible Options

OPTION 1: Surface Parking

  • Least expensive
  • Requires 30-40% of the entire site
  • Max of 10% of site free for open space
  • Less open space than existing layout
  • May push more parking to nearby streets

OPTION 2: Above-Grade Parking Structure

  • 20-25% of site free for open space
  • Open space would be less than half of what currently exist
  • No ability to have courtyards

OPTION 3: Single-Level Parking Podium

  • 25-35% of site free for open space
  • Housing and courtyards built on top of parking structure
  • Ground-floor units facing courtyard could have doors open onto it
  • Courtyards would be one level above street
  • Could make each unit complex more separate
  • May increase building heights

OPTION 4: Partial or Fully Below-Grade Structured Parking

  • More than 35% of site free for open space
  • Takes advantage of the site’s slope
  • Enables more units to have front doors on the street and courtyards
  • Courtyards would be at street level (with secured access)

What We Chose and Why


  • Allows us to maximize open space and keep valued amenities (e.g., UACC garden) while addressing residential parking needs
  • Provides parking for additional needs such as visitors, retail, and Early Childhood Center
  • Gives us some flexibility with regards to building height
  • Creates a secured parking zone

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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 the proposed amenities for Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Master Plan Proposal (The Plan: Decision Pathway – Parking)

Master Plan Digest: Parking Solutions for a Mixed-Use Urban Site

Parking requirements are debated for every urban development. With a truly urban site in a dense, walkable context, the proposed redevelopment at Friendship Court strives to create pleasant and accessible connections across the site and to the surrounding city. This means creating new pedestrian and vehicular streets and tucking parking under buildings.

In general, meeting the goal of creating a feasible mixed-income community that supports families at every income level will be challenging. Parking requirements could make it even more difficult. The cost of a typical underground parking space can reach $30,000, meaning that every 10 parking spaces cost as much as three affordable or workforce housing units. Having fewer parking spaces translates into more affordable housing.

Working with the City will be crucial to rethinking parking requirements for the project. Many solutions appear in the SIA study, the RCLCO Housing Study and the most recent parking study commissioned by the City. Among solutions to be considered are parking reductions for provisions of affordable units; on-site permit parking on newly created streets; shared parking; reserved car-share spaces; and bike facilities.

A mixed-income development that preserves 150 Section 8 units poses a far greater challenge than providing parking for the 150 existing households—or for more conventional infill development on other sites in downtown. With significantly more cars to handle, it rules out surface parking as an option.

The development goals create a set of unique opportunities and challenges for accommodating—and paying for—parking facilities not present for any other comparably sized development in or near Charlottesville.

The Master Plan vision of 600 units would need:

  • 600 spaces located in “podium” parking located partially below-grade.
  • A minimum of 50-60 curbside spaces to serve visitors, retail, the Early Childhood Center and / or other similar services and users.
  • Additional spaces required for employee, retail, or other parking provided by shared use of available residential parking spaces.

Podium parking, located partially below-grade, should satisfy these conditions:

  • Build the parking structure deep enough to keep the floor level of ground-floor housing built on top of it three to four feet above the adjacent sidewalk level. At that height, a stoop and steps allow reasonable access to the unit.
  • Use landscaping and architectural elements to shield parking from the view of passersby; wherever possible, avoid creating blank walls.
  • Incorporate light and air-wells into courtyards located above parking; use landscaping and design to avoid opening views directly into the parking.
  • Minimize construction and operating costs by:
    > limiting parking to one level;
    > limiting the need for internal access ramps and, where possible, keeping ramp slopes below 5% so that ramps can accommodate parking; and
    > providing a single vehicle entry/exit for each “block” where possible

* * *

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

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a closer look at why we chose structured parking instead of another parking option.

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

Master Plan Digest: Sustainability at Friendship Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Master Plan Digest: Green Infrastructure Elements in the Master Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Master Plan Digest: A Mix of Uses Creates Lively Streets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Master Plan Digest: Connecting Friendship Court to Other Neighborhoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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