Category Archives: Redevelopment Updates

Friendship Court Advisory Committee Meets with Grimm + Parker

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On October 26, 2017, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee held their monthly meeting at the architecture firm Grimm + Parker’s downtown Charlottesville offices. As background, the Advisory Committee is comprised of nine Friendship Court residents and six subject matter Charlottesville residents; last year, after an extensive interview process, the Advisory Committee selected Grimm + Parker to work with us through the design of the redevelopment.

This joint architect and Advisory Committee meeting took the form of a design charrette.  A charrette is a process of thoughtfully exploring design options for a site or building. In this case, the charrette focused on the Phase 1 of redevelopment for Friendship Court.

At this first design charrette, those gathered took a very close look at the details of Phase 1 of the redevelopment to better understand the options and priorities. Some of the questions posed were: What are the physical constraints of the site? What building types should be provided for residents? What are the pros and cons of different parking plans?

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By the end of the meeting, it became clear that we need to find the right balance of families with different incomes to create a successful project. The group considered the values and desires of both current and potential future Friendship Court residents in conjunction with the physical design challenges. One resident member of the committee said, “We knew there was a lot involved, but really had no idea how much!”

On November 29, the group will take a bus to Washington, DC to tour three relevant housing developments there. This trip will afford a first-hand view into the way other communities have handled similar development challenges. Those on the tour will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the residents of these housing developments. The tour will hopefully become an invaluable resource to help the committee as they delve even deeper into the project details, including phasing, construction timing, and community cohesion.

Following the bus tour, on November 30, the Advisory Committee will participate in a follow up design charrette to continue to translate their aspirations and observations.

In January / February 2018, the committee will review plans that have resulted from the charrettes and 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.

 

Fall Festival at Friendship Court

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On Saturday, October 7, Friendship Court residents gathered for a Fall Festival and enjoyed spending time together and with surrounding neighbors.  Kids played, got their faces painted, and jumped in the bounce house while adults enjoyed music, raffles, and a variety of foods.

festival-4 festival-12Piedmont Housing Alliance staff engaged with residents, asking for their preferred way to receive information and updates and to communicate opinions and ideas, as planning for redevelopment continues. Good Neighbor Appreciation nominations were received from residents, and these people will be recognized in the upcoming Friendship Court newsletter. Residents got to speak with Piedmont Housing Alliance staff about programs and activities at the community center, including programming for children and youth, financial education sessions, and employment opportunities. Residents also got to speak with Velvet Coleman from the City of Charlottesville who is excited about her new role as Parent Connections for Preschool through 2nd grades for the elementary schools of Charlottesville. Velvet provided kids with fun school supplies.festival-21

A delicious dinner was provided by Afghan Kabob and Mel’s Cafe. Thanks to all the other partners who helped make this possible, including Cindy Pollard of Transformations (face painting), Superfun Attractions with the Yanceys (bounce house), Coria RVA (DJ), the Party Starts Here, Virginia Tent Rental, Eze Amos (photography) and Charlottesville City Schools.  A special thanks to the residents who provide ongoing guidance and leadership in the community on the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, the Youth Leadership Team, and in other roles.

Project Manager Beth Kennan said, “It was great to see so many families enjoying the Fall Festival with their neighbors. We are so fortunate to be working with this wonderful community towards improved housing and economic opportunities.”
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Piedmont Housing Alliance sponsors community dinners and events several times each year, in addition to ongoing programs and activities at the community center.  To stay connected to happenings in the community, see the monthly newsletters on the Friendship Court website at www.friendshipcourtapartments.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FriendshipCourt/.

Happy Fall!

Youth Leadership Team Members Participate in UVa Ecological Democracy Class to Develop Solutions in the Friendship Court Redevelopment Process

Youth Leadership Team Ecological DemocracySeven eager members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team (YLT) spent the spring semester engaging with UVa students in a class at the UVa School of Architecture called Ecological Democracy. The term ecological democracy was originally coined by Professor Randolph T. Hester from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. Its main tenet is that community resilience “can be built through direct contact with the social and ecological processes that impact the built world, and that communities are stronger when co-powered to drive decision-making processes themselves.” Addy, Daemond, Emilee, Jarvis, Javisha, Justin, and Tyquan are the YLT members who are beginning to engage in decision-making regarding their community through this process.

The Ecological Democracy course was developed and led by Barbara Brown-Wilson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, with master plan design team member Liz Ogbu as a visiting professor. Several graduate students also planned biweekly dialogues with the YLT members. The dialogues began as an exercise to get to know and trust each other and evolved to in-depth discussions and planning to address potential “opportunity areas” for improvement within the Friendship Court community.

The dialogue groups met once or twice a week, usually at UVa.

Katie Deal was a participating student whose interdisciplinary major focused on public and private partnerships that develop equitable models for affordable housing. “In order to develop solutions that fit the community, you need to talk to the stakeholders first to really understand what their day-to-day life is like,” Katie said. “We knew that we could do this with the Youth Leadership Team to learn best practices for human-centered design.”

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Human-centered design should ultimately create solutions that work well for everyone involved in the process, and should provide opportunities for those being directly impacted by the design to express their perspective and concerns. This type of design takes longer than the traditional design process and requires flexibility from all parties involved.

The students discussed design challenges, potential areas for improvement, and possible design solutions. The workshops included mapping exercises and brainstorming sessions along with intuitive design tools to visualize possibilities and to stimulate conversation and creativity as the students were asked to reflect on the design and evaluation process.

Through these exercises, the youth came to recognize the opportunity areas in their community. They identified five potential projects in the collaborative design workshops and narrowed those down to two through feedback and a vote. Through several design brainstorming sessions independently led by the UVa students in collaboration with the YLT members, these two opportunity areas were then developed into potential quick-win design solutions.

Youth Leadership Team class participatingOver the four months of collaborative effort, the group came up with both short-term and long-term quick-win goals designed to solve each problem identified by the YLT members. Some of the ideas included:

  • Creating a space for relaxation and community gathering, which could include benches and planters around the courtyards
  • Improving the basketball court area
  • Making enhancements to the fence, including opening of the gates all the time, beautifying the area if the fences are not taken down and ultimately taking down the fence

The quick wins are important elements of the redevelopment process as they help provide the youth with a sense of excitement and more immediate visible accomplishments during the longer redevelopment process. In addition, these wins teach them how to use basic strategies and tools to continue community improvement and support into the future. To read more about all the quick-win opportunities and the class, see the course evaluation put together by the students at the end of the class.

This collaboration between the youth at Friendship Court and the faculty and students at the University of Virginia is helping create a supportive platform for improving the quality of life of residents during the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The partnership and leadership program started in 2016 and will continue through 2018. The Youth Leadership Team is designed to involve the youth through mentorship, resources, and coordination. In addition to their sustainable land-use curriculum, the youth have participated in financial management courses, resume writing workshops, interview preparation sessions, and field trips.

We look forward to hearing more throughout the redevelopment process from the Youth Leadership Team about their role in helping create a more inclusive and improved community at Friendship Court.

Youth Leadership Team class

 

Friendship Court Community Dinner Meeting Features Opportunities to Discuss Community’s Future

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017Friendship 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.

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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.

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Emma Johnson, One of the First Friendship Court Residents, Looks Forward to the Redevelopment

Emma Johnson has lived in Charlottesville for a long time, mostly as a resident at Friendship Court Apartments.  Originally from Nelson County, Emma moved back to the area after living in Ohio for much of her life.  Emma said she knew she wanted to retire to this area where she spent her early years.  She decided to move to Friendship Court after her youngest daughter started college at the University of Virginia because it was affordable and new. Emma, mother to six children, moved into the community after she had been living on Anderson Street, in the 10th and Page neighborhood in Charlottesville.  At the time, Emma said they were still finishing the construction of Friendship Court. There was a church on the property where people would go for service on Sundays.  Emma said she had her own church, but sometimes she would go to the one at Friendship Court and has fond memories of it.

When she was in her early thirties, Emma came to work in Charlottesville as a textile worker, not far from Friendship Court, at the historic IX building. Emma recalls Frank Ix fondly, saying she would ask him what he planned to do after he retired.  She claims he would say simply, “Oh, I don’t know, Emma, I suppose I will just go home and do nothing.”  At the time, she says, she always knew she could talk to Mr. Ix about any troubles she had and he would help straighten things out.

Emma leads a busy lifestyle for a 90-year-old. She opens her door often to any one of her 15 grandchildren and she likes to get out and do most of her own shopping.  She enjoys reading and sewing and taking care of her home.  Emma, who has lived at Friendship Court now for close to 40 years, said she is excited about the changes to come.  “I think it’s going to be really nice. I like the idea of changes around here.” She likes the idea of being able to take an elevator up and down so she doesn’t have to take the stairs. Emma approves of the “hop-scotch” phasing approach to the redevelopment so that no one is displaced.  She says it “all sounds just great!”

The neighbors take care of Ms. Johnson at Friendship Court. She said I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated and that’s just what she does, “I am nice to people and they are nice back to me.  That’s how to be a good neighbor.  I was brought up the right way.”

Emma said she has always been treated well at Friendship Court.  Piedmont Housing Alliance looks forward to continuing to treat her well and to starting the positive changes at Friendship Court soon.

Beth Kennan Helps Lead Friendship Court to Next Stage of the Redevelopment

PHA Beth Kennan Project Manager Friendship Court

Beth Kennan, a Charlottesville native, is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s project manager for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. Beth comes to Piedmont Housing Alliance with over 10 years of real estate project development and construction management experience. She earned a Masters of Professional Studies in Real Estate from Georgetown University and has overseen projects totaling more than 920,000 square feet. Beth plays a central role in moving the redevelopment plan forward, working with residents, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, community stakeholders, engineers, and architects.

Beth’s current focus is on the important predevelopment work (civil engineering, legal, and preliminary architectural work) necessary to gain site plan approval for the first phase of redevelopment, which is funded by a substantial grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

PHA Friendship Court redevelopment rendering

One of the exciting features of the redevelopment plan incorporates an early education center at Friendship Court. In September, Beth organized a tour for of two innovative early childhood centers in Virginia, The New E3 School in Norfolk and the Weinstein JCC School in Richmond. This gave members of the board, the advisory committee, and other community partners an opportunity to experience and learn about other successful centers in the region. Another tour of early childhood centers in southwest Virginia is being planned for January.

Beth is a member of the Urban Land Institute and is keenly interested in the redevelopment and the positive effects she believes it will bring to the urban landscape in Charlottesville’s downtown. She continues to stay involved with other community organizations. When asked about the project, she said, “Most importantly, you have to work as team in any community partnership and value everyone’s opinion. No one is better than anyone else. Everyone has something to bring to the table and you have to value that.”

The master plan is complete and will be available to the public in January.

Meet Emilee Martin, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Emilee Martin Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Emilee Martin is one of eight Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly after school since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is learning many skills to help better their community. The Youth Leadership Program is part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement process for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Emilee, 12, loves to eat enchiladas and is a pop music lover. She says that she is learning how to evaluate and do research while being a member of the youth leadership team.

Emilee is interested in being a member of the team so that she can be aware of what is going to happen with the redevelopment in order to be more prepared.

Meet Addy Martin, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Addison Martin Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Angel (Addy) Martin is one of eight Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly after school since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is learning many skills to help better their community. The Youth Leadership Program is part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement process for the redevelopment of Friendship Court. The goal is to equip resident youth leaders with the skills to provide input for the redevelopment with particular focus on activity areas, green space, and programming. Youth participants gain valuable skills, experiences, and academic and professional networks that will create educational and career opportunities.

Addy, 16, is the oldest of six children and is a junior at Charlottesville High School. Addy enjoys drawing and loves the color navy blue. He is learning a lot more about the neighborhood, the community garden, and how to conduct an interview, to name a few things.

Addy’s interest in being a member of the Youth Leadership Team came from wanting to learn more about what is going on with the redevelopment of Friendship Court.  Addy is interested in having a voice in the changes to come.

Friendship Court Residents are Shaping the Future

PHA Friendship Court Resident Shaping the Future Youth Leadership Team Advisory Committee

Throughout 2016, residents of Friendship Court of all ages have been engaged in conversations about redevelopment. Two leadership groups have emerged from this effort, the Friendship Court Advisory Committee, a team of seven residents elected by their neighbors and six members of the at-large community, and the Youth Leadership Program.

The Advisory Committee was integral in the door-to-door effort to gather feedback on the redevelopment Master Plan from each and every Friendship Court resident. Upcoming efforts will focus on gaining quality of life improvements for the community, the plan for an early childhood education center, workforce development and phase one design including architect selection.

The Youth Leadership Program consists of eight resident teens who will meet regularly over two years’ time, developing skills and offering insights for the community’s redevelopment. Sessions will focus on land use planning, community engagement, and related job skills training. In the last few months the teens have gone on a field trip to Charlottesville City Hall and learned interview and research skills from University of Virginia graduate students.

Piedmont Housing Alliance is committed to deepening and expanding meaningful relationships and leadership opportunities within the Friendship Court community to better serve the residents that live there.

 

Piedmont Housing Alliance Leads Bus Tour to Early Childhood Education Centers

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Alex Ikefuna, Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services; Gail Esterman, ReadyKids; Ron Enders, PHA board member; Frank Grosch, PHA CEO; Ramona Chapman, PHA board member; Cathy Train, United Way; Sheri Hopper, PHA Advisory Committee member; Stephanie Massie, ReadyKids; Claudette Grant, PHA Community Organizer at Friendship Court; Myrtle Houchens, PHA Advisory Committee member; Erika Viccellio, United Way; Beth Kennan, PHA Project Manager; Sarah McLean, PHA Advisory Committee member; and Karen Reifenberger, PHA COO

On Tuesday, September 20, Piedmont Housing Alliance led a bus tour to explore exceptional early childhood education centers in both Norfolk and Richmond. The tour included Piedmont Housing staff, several board members, Friendship Court Advisory Committee members, and community representatives from the United Way, ReadyKids and the City of Charlottesville.

The group toured two schools: The New E3 School in Norfolk, and the Weinstein JCC in Richmond.   The schools were selected because they represent two ends of a spectrum in early childhood education philosophy. The New E3 School is based on a curriculum developed by the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning. The Weinstein JCC program is based around the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education.

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The purpose of the trip is to gain information about early childhood centers that have successfully attracted a mixed income population, with an eye toward the creation of an early childhood center at Friendship Court, as an element of that community’s redevelopment, beginning in 2019.

While on the tour, participants were able to visit classrooms and play areas, talk with staff, learn about school philosophies and visions, as well as methods of operations. Key learnings from the operations help inform how multiple levels of income and tuition can be accommodated and attract a truly diverse population.

The team will compile their findings and continue the discussion with area early childhood education stakeholders, as plans for Friendship Court continue to evolve.

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