Friendship Court residents gathered on February 16th at the community center to learn and share ideas about the future redevelopment over dinner with neighbors. Residents engaged with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff and the Grimm and Parker architectural team working on Phase 1 of the redevelopment. Residents interacted with photos of other housing communities and answered the questions: What are your favorite things about Friendship Court? What do you want us to know about your community? Residents also talked with and gave feedback to other community partners related to City street planning and Charlottesville City Schools. A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Wayside Chicken. Kids got to indulge in fun photo booth activities during the night. Residents are encouraged to talk with Community Organizer Claudette Grant at the community center and to join us for quarterly community dinner meetings scheduled for May 11th, August 17th and November 16th.
The Friendship Court Advisory Committee continues to meet monthly. Their February meeting will include a kick-off meeting with members of recently-formed work groups focused on creating an Early Childhood Education Center and a Workforce Development Program. The Advisory Committee will also discuss ongoing resident engagement to inform physical and programmatic aspects of the redevelopment.
Piedmont Housing Alliance CEO Frank Grosch
If I had to say one thing about the plans to refurbish and renovate Friendship Court, it would be this: what we do in this place has to work for the people who live there NOW.
We don’t want to do what happened at Vinegar Hill when an entire community was displaced. In fact, we want to do the OPPOSITE of what happened at Vinegar Hill. If it doesn’t work for the current residents, it doesn’t work for us.
And the only way we can know what works for the residents is to ask them, and we’ve already begun that process. We are eager to hear how we can improve the living experience all the people who live in the 150 apartments that make up this development.
What we DO know, is that on completion, Friendship Court will continue to include housing for all 150 families who live here now as well as workforce housing and some market-rate houses. We also want to be sure we incorporate green space and business opportunities – including opportunities that provide jobs for residents. Our goal is to give Friendship Court residents training in skilled trades – carpentry, masonry, plumbing, and the like – and jobs in construction on the site. Additionally, we also see some non-residential uses there such as a sliding-scale health center in partnership with Central Virginia Health Services and an Early Childhood Learning Center with affordable day care and a pre-K program for our kids . . . plus learning opportunities for adults in the evenings.
That said, we have made NO PLANS. We cannot even begin that process until we have received real and substantial input from the current residents. But we do have ideas, and at the top of that idea list is the imperative that we keep the Friendship Court community intact and the project affordable for the families that live there now. Our job is to unlock the potential of this valuable piece of real estate for the benefit of the people who live there now and to make whatever we do both environmentally and economically sustainable over the long run.
We have an opportunity to make the redevelopment of Friendship Court a national model for the redevelopment of affordable housing across the country. We hope that our work at Friendship Court can be a model for others in Charlottesville and across the country in how to residents can create the future for their own communities.
The bottom line is that we have great faith in the power and the wisdom of the residents of Friendship Court to plan their own future.