What We Learned from Previous Planning Reports in Charlottesville

While preparing the master plan for redevelopment at Friendship Court, the design team reviewed a number of local plans and reports. Each of these documents offered valuable data that has begun to factor into our proposed approach, particularly with respect to housing and parking.

Some of the specific documents reviewed include the Strategic Investment Area plan (2013); Charlottesville Parking Study (2015); Housing Plan (2016); Comprehensive Housing Analysis (2015); and the Economic Development Study (2014).

In addition to studying the City’s reports related to planning frameworks, the design team also undertook physical observations of the site to understand how those frameworks intersected with physical realities.

For example, connectivity is an important theme in the planning documents. At Friendship Court, we heard from residents and neighbors that physical features such as the fence and the superblock layout cause the place to be seen as isolated and separated from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sustainability and green infrastructure are also key vision elements identified by the City in its planning initiatives. Friendship Court faces significant issues, including stormwater management and flooding on site, that could be greatly reduced or fully controlled by using green infrastructure.

What this tells us about affordable housing

  • Low-income households face the most challenging trade-offs between housing and transportation costs. Their best housing options—meaning low-cost choices—are in Albemarle and surrounding counties.
  • But those locations, which require an automobile, increase a household’s transportation costs, sometimes dramatically, and those increases can wipe out lower housing costs.
  • Designating “workforce” housing as affordable and incorporating it into our development could address a critical need in the city while supporting the “ladder of opportunity” vision for redevelopment. It may also attract city funds for streetscape and infrastructure improvements on site to achieve this important housing goal.

What this tells us about parking

  • The City-commissioned 2015 parking study recommends creation of a Parking Benefit District(s) with parking revenues dedicated to creating one or more parking facilities, supporting parking management, coordinating shared parking, improving information flow, and implementing transportation demand management.
  • The redevelopment plan tucks parking underneath the new buildings. There are many reasons to do this, most notably because it frees up land for creating public green spaces, which make the site more attractive, more appealing to live in, and can support creation of green infrastructure.

What this tells us about connectivity

  • Look for ways to change Friendship Court from an island to a connected neighborhood.
  • Increase connectivity by creating a green “corridor” across the site.
  • Extend both Hinton and Belmont avenues into Friendship Court to create new streets or pedestrian walkways, connecting Friendship Court to the Belmont neighborhood around it.

What this tells us about sustainability

  • Improve quality of life by designing the stormwater retention system to minimize flooding and runoff.
  • Increase connectivity by introducing a green corridor across the site.
  • Make the green space a true amenity that all residents—and neighbors—can actively enjoy.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll discuss the physical site context at Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Previous Planning Principles)

The Ladder of Affordable Housing Opportunity

The redeveloped Friendship Court will provide three tiers of affordable housing, as well as market-rate units, in order to serve families with different income levels.

Housing affordability is measured in relation to area median income (AMI), a number determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to represent a typical annual household income for a local area. In 2015, the Charlottesville AMI was $77,800.

Affordable Housing: Section 8

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at or below 30% of AMI. Up to $28,000 in income; rents up to $650 for a family of four. Typical jobs include food servers, waiter/waitress, home health aide, and bus driver.

How it works: Each family pays 30% of its income for rent. Rent payments are tied to income and can shift up or down each month. Friendship Court has a designated fair market rent (FMR) of approximately $800 per unit per month that the federal government determines is enough to cover operating expenses. A federal subsidy covers the difference between the FMR and the portion paid by the tenant.

Affordable Housing: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at 60% of AMI and below. Up to $40,000 in income; rents up to $1,000 for a family of four. Typical jobs include mechanic, school teacher, police officer, and administrative assistant.

How it works: Families pay a fixed affordable rent. LIHTC units must be rented to low income families at affordable rents, but unlike Section 8 rents don’t change with a family income.

Affordable Housing: Subsidized Workforce

Who it’s for: Households with incomes at or below 80% of AMI. Up to $60,000 in income; rents up to $1,600 for a family of four. Typical jobs include post-secondary instructor, landscape architect, physician’s assistant, dental hygienist, and bank teller.

How it works: Families whose incomes are above LIHTC income limits but not sufficient to afford market rents are eligible for workforce housing. This type of housing has no federal subsidies and targets families between 60% and 100% AMI.

Market Rate

Who it’s for: Families with incomes at 100% of AMI and more is where market-rate developers are targeting rents. Above $75,000 in income; rents up to $2,400 for a family of four. Typical jobs include lawyer, software engineer, accountant, and upper management.

How it works: Demand in the market sets rents. The proposed redevelopment would have amenities and unit sizes to make it competitive with other market-rate developments. The amenities need to attract market-rate renters, but are open and available to all residents at all rent levels. This type of housing has no federal subsidies.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see how previous local planning reports contributed to the Friendship Court Master Plan.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Ladder of Affordable Opportunity)

How Does the Local Housing Market Affect Redevelopment at Friendship Court?

Based on what we learned from residents and from a 2016 housing study commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, we believe a mixed-income development at Friendship Court will best serve the needs of current residents as well as many other local families.

Affordable Housing: Economic Mobility

What we learned: Residents want a better quality of life, but feel that “the system” makes it hard to move up.

Those interviewed often expressed high aspirations but also a feeling that they are limited by institutional constraints, from Section 8 to childcare costs to limited employment options. Gains made in one area cause repercussions in others; they could never get ahead. Although Friendship Court is seen as better than public housing, many feel “stuck” here.

What that tells us: Many believe mixed-income housing can provide access to opportunities, but it must also include paths to economic mobility.

Affordable Housing: Charlottesville Housing Study

What we learned: According to the City of Charlottesville’s 2016 housing study, the city has a critical shortage of low-income housing.

The city’s most underserved households are those with the lowest incomes. Recommendations from the study include

  • increasing “workforce” housing options;
  • supporting initiatives that preserve and expand rental opportunities for those who earn less than 60% of AMI (area median income); and
  • supporting environmentally friendly, resource-efficient and pedestrian-/transit-oriented neighborhood designs.

What that tells us: Residents whose income exceeds the Section 8 limits have few other affordable housing options within Charlottesville. This often means they must move to the county and beyond, where there are fewer jobs and greater transportation costs.

About the Economics of the Development

Friendship Court will be a ground-breaking development in terms of its economic model. Mixed-income developments completed to date have typically involved former public housing sites redeveloped with substantial federal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhoods or Rental Assistance Demonstration programs.

Without access to these resources, Piedmont Housing Alliance, as a private, nonprofit developer, will pursue a host of partnerships, programs and funders to complete revitalization of the site. This unique circumstance puts added importance on the proposed income mix. Approximately one-fourth of the units at the redeveloped Friendship Court will be designated for the lowest-income households with the heaviest rent burdens. Section 8 assistance for 150 low-income units allows for much-needed deeply affordable rents while providing the subsidy to offset the operating costs for those units.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units will allow an additional level of affordability for those with incomes greater than the Section 8 limits. This will allow current residents who are upwardly mobile or other low-income families in search of affordable housing to remain in the city, where affordable apartments are extremely difficult to find.

Workforce units will fill a niche for families with incomes above the LIHTC income limits but still unable to afford market rents. The 2016 RCLCO housing study, commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, specifically calls out housing within this income band as a neglected market segment and in high demand.

The RCLCO study also clearly shows a growing demand for downtown, market-rate rental units. These market-rate units are crucial to the success of the Friendship Court redevelopment, as they will cross-subsidize the more affordable units and act as a catalyst for development of retail and other amenities on site, a benefit to every income level.

Friendship Court will also help the City surpass the goals set out in its 2025 Goals for Affordable Housing by increasing affordable housing for those who live and/or work in the city and are part of households with incomes of up to 80% of AMI (area median income); preserving and expanding rental opportunities for residents who earn less than 60% of AMI; and incorporating environmentally friendly, energy- and resource-efficient and pedestrian-/transit-oriented neighborhood design, building technologies and infrastructure.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how affordable housing options should match up to different income levels.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Market Context)

Talking about Friendship Court with Community Stakeholders

The redevelopment of Friendship Court will require partnerships across Charlottesville. To begin laying the groundwork for those partnerships, and to solicit input about a variety of issues integral to understanding Friendship Court, Piedmont Housing and its design team pursued intensive stakeholder engagement.

We met and talked with a wide array of stakeholders including Neighborhood Development Services, Virginia Housing Development Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, Legal Aid Justice Center, resident associations, neighborhood associations, schools and various not-for-profit service providers including site visits to local organizations.

Stakeholders Engaged (December 2015–May 2016)

Tamika Allen
Pete Armetta
Charlie Armstrong
Shannon Banks
Wes Bellamy
Carolyn Betts
Tara Boyd
Chip Boyle
Read Brodhead
Mark Brown
Wendy Brown
Brenda Castañeda
Zoe Cohen
Brandon Collins
Ty Cooper
Chris Craytor
Missy Creasy
Brian Daly
Mary Loose DeViney
Bill Dittmar
Andrea Douglas
Emily Dreyfus
Connie Dunn
Bill Edgerton
Chris Engel
Bob Fenwick
Kathy Galvin
Eunice Garrett
Deanna Gould
Melvin Grady
Charlene Green
Brian Haluska
Rashad Hanbali
Beverly Hanlin
Mike Hawkins
Jack and Linda Hawxhurst
Stephen Hitchcock
Jack Horn
Rosa Hudson
Tim Hulbert
Satyendra Singh Huja
Alex Ikefuna
Deb Jackson
Greg Jackson
Eric Johnson
Julie Jones
Daphne Keiser
Susan Kirschel
Katie Kishore
Craig Kotarski
Diane Kuknyo
Ludwig Kuttner
Oliver Kuttner
Kelly Logan
Police Chief Longo
Rod Manifold
Kathy McHugh
Bill McGee
Jon Nafziger
Heather Newmyer
Todd Niemeier
Amanda Patterson
Piedmont Housing Board of Directors
James Pierce
Amanda Poncy
Carrie Rainey
Kim Rolla
Dan Rosensweig
Mariam Rushfin
John Santoski
Ridge Schuyler
Leslie Scott
Lena Seville
Katie Shevlin
Mayor Mike Signer
Marty Silman
Maynard Sipe
Matthew Slatts
Dede Smith
Kristin Szakos
Alan Taylor
Cathy Train
Anna Towns
Candice Van der Linde
Will Van der Linde
Bill Wardle
Kevin White
JP Williamson
Brian Wimer
Buddy Weiner

We believe this list to be comprehensive. We apologize for any omissions. If you believe we have failed to include someone in this list, please let us know. 

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look at how the local housing market affects redevelopment at Friendship Court.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Stakeholder Context)

A Better Quality of Life for Friendship Court Residents

Redevelopment at Friendship Court is an opportunity to add affordable housing, jobs and infrastructure for the Charlottesville community. It’s also a wonderful chance to create new opportunities for current residents.

One of our guiding redevelopment goals is that “Friendship Court Improves Quality of Life and Fosters Access to Opportunity for All of its Residents.” Here’s what residents have told us about their quality of life and what could be different.


What we learned: Whenever possible, residents are actively looking for ways to improve their situations.

Several residents talked about pursuing further education, be it degree-track courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College or literacy classes at Jefferson School. However, barriers—including childcare, health, and finances—regularly complicate these efforts. Despite such obstacles, there was a clear and strong desire to resume their education.

What that tells us: Redevelopment needs not only to encompass physical upgrades but also to provide new and expanded programs that can support residents’ aspirations.


What we learned: The “taint” of Garrett Square is still strong among residents and their cohort (e.g., other parents at the local schools).

Garrett Square was renamed Friendship Court in 2003, but many people still call it “Garrett Square” and continue to associate the community with its old reputation. At a teen workshop, one participant commented that her friend’s mother won’t let her come to Friendship Court to play because she still sees it as Garrett Square—dangerous and “the ghetto.”

What that tells us: Simply renovating existing apartments won’t change Friendship Court’s reputation. It needs to look and feel like a better place to live, especially for current residents.


What we learned: The management company has been a source of conflict on site. It contributes to a resident perception that the owners don’t care for or respect them.

Many residents have viewed management as unresponsive to resident concerns. Residents reported delayed attention to repairs and unequal treatment. Management is the most tangible connection residents have with the ownership group, and its negative reputation colors the ownership’s reputation.

What that tells us: Mixed-income developments require a high-quality management structure. Responding quickly and efficiently to resident concerns will achieve the goal of valuing all residents.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see all the community stakeholders who contributed to the planning process.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Quality of Life)

Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces: What Can We Improve?

Our conversations with Friendship Court residents have revealed a number of ways that indoor and outdoor spaces could serve them better.

Outdoor Social Spaces

What we learned: There are no good outdoor social spaces.

Courtyards are oriented toward young children. Much of the green space is unusable. The parking lot is a place where people often loiter. Residents aren’t allowed to hang out on their porches. They want places to sit and to actively engage with the outdoors.

What that tells us: Residents value personal exterior space but also want common spaces that serve a wide range of users.

Play Spaces for Children

What we learned: Families with children value connection to the outside.

One resident commented that if you don’t live adjacent to a courtyard with play equipment or the exterior play space, it can be difficult to let your child play outside because you can’t watch them from your apartment.

What that tells us: The priority is for lines of sight rather than direct physical access, suggesting that families with children could be organized around courtyards but may not require direct access from their unit.


What we learned: Safety can be an issue with the exterior spaces adjacent to units.

All units have exterior storage. For some, the storage space sits directly in front of the unit, opposite the front door. Residents feel that this creates an unsafe space. People can loiter here and be shielded from public view if they’re involved in illicit activity.

What that tells us: Safety is not only a design imperative to be tackled at the site level, but also in the way that units and building open to the outside.

Personalization and Beauty

What we learned: Management rules limit the ways residents can personalize their spaces, so residents take full advantage of any small opportunity to do so.

Rules prevent things like planting flowers (a request from a teen workshop participant) or painting walls any color but off-white. Painting must be done by the management company, another limitation. Residents personalize their spaces in other ways, from decorations in the homes to “wrapping” front doors at Christmas.

What that tells us: Residents desire fewer arbitrary rules, more freedom, and more beauty inside and outside their units.

Quality of Light

What we learned: Apartment interiors are very dark.

Window size and placement, low ceilings and paint colors make many units feel dark and claustrophobic. Even during the day with open shades, the amount of natural daylight is quite limited. Residents are only allowed to use low-wattage bulbs, too weak to make much difference.

What that tells us: The building and unit designs need higher ceilings; more and larger windows; and better interior lighting, particularly in common spaces.

Interior Spaces

What we learned: Apartment interiors are residents’ primary social spaces, but they’re too small for that purpose.

All the rooms feel small. Living rooms don’t accommodate large families. Bedrooms in particular are quite small. The layouts of the units vary, but none offer open floor plans.

What that tells us: Redevelopment needs to use modern, market-driven floor plans for all apartments. These can offer more efficient, comfortable and attractive spaces in limited square footage.


What we learned: Teenagers want more privacy.

They have few if any spaces specifically intended for them. Within the units, bedrooms are small and often shared between siblings. (“More bedrooms” is a frequent request from teens.) The only space frequently used by teens at the Community Center is the computer lab. Teens’ desires are worth noting: while most children at Friendship Court are now younger than 12, by the time redevelopment is complete most will be teenagers.

What that tells us: We need to think about features for accommodating a larger teenage population, including opportunities for greater privacy in units and teen-specific spaces in common areas.

Unit Adjacencies

What we learned: Conflicts can arise between households with children and those without – largely focused on issues such as noise and levels of activity.

What that tells us: We need to think about how to distribute unit types, acoustical treatments, and other design elements to ease these conflicts.


What we learned: Many residents believe the fence around the site makes the site feel like a prison.

Although installed to reduce crime, the fence instead feels like a wall keeping residents in and creating opportunities for conflict at the few entry/exit points. (And it doesn’t keep negative elements out of the site.)

What that tells us: There needs to be better flow into and out of the site to remove pinch points. We also need to think about how to design for a sense of safety.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a look at the opportunities for redevelopment to improve residents’ quality of life.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Apartment Exterior + Interior)

What We Learned About Pinch Points, Green Space, and Other Site Issues

During community meetings and personal interviews, Friendship Court residents described several dysfunctional aspects of the property that need improvement.

Pinch Points

What we learned

The school bus stop and the areas around the eastern row of units near the Community Center are considered places prone to conflict. The bus stop is one of the few entry/exit points for the property and a place where people congregate. It’s a pick-up point with no place to sit and wait comfortably. Adults and teenage residents also cite the area near the community center as a place where tensions tend to flare, leading to disputes among both children and parents.

What that tells us

  • There needs to be better flow into and out of the site to remove these pinch points.
  • Places where people congregate should be more intentionally designed.
  • More programs/services are needed to address stress management and conflict.


What we learned

Existing courtyards are underutilized and tend to cater to very young children. Residents really want to spend time outside but feel there isn’t a place for them to do so. Older kids in particular complain about a lack of age-appropriate equipment.

What that tells us

  • Redevelopment should include common spaces that attract and serve a wide range of users.

Large Green Spaces

What we learned

The large green space on the eastern edge of the site is an underutilized resource. This space should be an amenity but isn’t. Prone to flooding after rain, it features play equipment whose appeal is limited and that suffers from poor maintenance.

What that tells us

  • The layout of the green space doesn’t serve the needs and desires of residents. We need to identify key aspirations for outdoor recreation and then design space to meet them.

Green Spaces

What we learned

The parking lots become de facto space for recreation and social interaction. With no other places to hang out and play, residents meet and children play in the parking lots—unsafe places to play or ride a bike. Sometimes those who gather there bring negative

elements from outside or are themselves from outside Friendship Court, making the space feel unsafe for residents.

What that tells us

  • Common spaces that attract and serve a wide range of users should be part of redevelopment. We need to think about how to design for a sense of safety.

UACC Community Garden

What we learned

On the site for nearly ten years, the garden has a small but committed group of resident stewards and a large number of recipients of its produce. It is one of several similar gardens in town that host rotating market days. The garden has been improved recently with the addition of fruit trees and stone terraces. Farmer Todd, manager of the garden, is committed to continuing efforts that support residents.

What that tells us

  • The community garden is an asset and should be retained as part of redevelopment.
  • Farmer Todd is open to change as long as it benefits resident

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see what residents said about how the apartments could be improved.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Site Issues)

Resident Engagement is a Cornerstone of Friendship Court Redevelopment

Piedmont Housing Alliance and the design team who led the master planning process worked with residents to create a redevelopment project that can work for the 150 households that live there now. We sought input from residents and other stakeholders through multiple channels, including:

In-home Interviews (14 interviews)

In-depth conversations (minimum of 1 hour) that took place within residents’ apartments. Residents interviewed represent a cross section of the population at Friendship Court. (This process continues.)

Teen Workshops (3 workshops)

Interactive workshops with teen residents intended to gain their perspective on living at Friendship Court and what they want to see in the future. This engagement continues and deepens with the Youth Leadership Team.

Resident Community Meetings (4 meetings)

Interactive meetings to discuss resident needs and desires, findings from the design team’s work, and suggestions for direction. Meetings will continue four times a year. They are open to all current Friendship Court residents and take place at the Community Center.

Friendship Court Advisory Committee (4 meetings)

The Advisory Committee was created to provide an active steering group of project stakeholders and to provide guidance to Piedmont Housing in two primary areas: physical revitalization and community life. Half the group’s 13 members are residents who were elected by other residents in January 2016. The committee chair is also a resident. The Advisory Committee continues to meet regularly.

Residents Interviewed (Dec 2015–May 2016)

Lisa Armitage, Tamara Brown, Tanasha Brown, Christina Cobbs, Sheri Hopper, Crystal Johnson (2), Betty Lowry, Angela Morris, Priscilla Quarles, Robert Seal, Callie Smith, Tamara Wright (2)

Most of the workshops and resident meetings have involved brainstorming sessions about how people feel about Friendship Court now, what they believe can be better, and what their desires are for the future.

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In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll examine what we learned from residents about site issues.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – What We Heard and What That Tells Us (Resident Engagement)

History of Friendship Court and its Surrounding Neighborhoods

Friendship Court rose from urban renewal. In 1967, the area known as the Garrett Street neighborhood was cleared by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Most of the industrial and commercial sites and all of the existing housing along Garrett as well as Diggs, Dice, Oak, Ware, and 2nd Streets to the south were removed.

The same 1960s urban renewal process that generated Garrett Square produced harmful outcomes in another downtown neighborhood: Vinegar Hill. As in many communities across the country, urban renewal in Charlottesville saw the destruction of a vibrant African American neighborhood and business district.

While urban renewal was presented as an opportunity to bring new life to downtown, for many African Americans, Vinegar Hill meant displacement of African American families and businesses. That profound sense of loss is still fresh today, 50 years later.

Garrett Square (later renamed Friendship Court) was built in 1978 on the cleared Garrett site. In 2002, Piedmont Housing Alliance entered into a partnership with National Housing Trust (NHT) to acquire and renovate Friendship Court. In 2018, Piedmont Housing will have the opportunity to become the managing partner and redevelop this site. In nearly 40 years of existence, Friendship Court has never undergone a major redevelopment.

The proposed master plan for Friendship Court seeks to redevelop the site without displacing any of the mostly African American residents at any time during or after construction. Instead of destroying affordable housing, the current effort seeks to preserve and expand the stock of affordable and workforce housing in a process informed by those who live there now.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see an overview of the resident engagement process that informed the master plan – more than two dozen meetings and interviews.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Neighborhood Context)

How Does Friendship Court Fit into the Surrounding Neighborhood?

Neighborhood Amenities

Due to its central location, Friendship Court is surrounded by many neighborhood amenities within a 5- to 10-minute walk. These include:

  • Over a dozen restaurants, small-scale retail shops, and several grocery outlets
  • Places of worship
  • The Jefferson School City Center and the African American Heritage Center
  • Cultural amenities, including the Paramount Theater, Live Arts, Virginia Discovery Museum, Music Resource Center, the Library, and art galleries
  • IX Art Park, IX Innovation Center, and Computers 4 Kids
  • ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center
  • Parks and open space



Neighborhood Connections

Friendship Court’s physical features—a “superblock” without a cross street, a perimeter fence and limited pedestrian and vehicular access—all make it feel isolated. Reducing this effect will mean making connections to the adjacent neighborhood. Nearby neighbors include downtown, The Gleason, IX, Crescent Halls, Sixth Street, and Belmont.

Pedestrian connections can be made to downtown along 2nd Street and 4th Street. 2nd Street can be enlivened with active ground-floor uses such as retail and community services and an improved pedestrian-oriented streetscape. New pedestrian and street infrastructure can connect Friendship Court to the IX site. Community-serving amenities and social services along 6th Street can connect to Friendship Court and Crescent Halls.

Plans should maintain sensitivity to the single family context Belmont neighborhoods and encourage pedestrian connections into the site from the neighboring residential areas.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll look back at the history of Friendship Court and 1960s urban renewal.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Local Context (Neighborhood Context)