Tag Archives: Friendship Court

Welcome to Jessica Eldridge, Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court

Jessica Eldridge photo blog

Jessica Eldridge is Piedmont Housing Alliance’s new Community Center Coordinator at Friendship Court.  Jessica’s specific role will be to coordinate and support children’s after school activities and resident engagement. Jessica will also be working with the various community partners at the center to continue providing family resources and support to the residents of Friendship Court. Jessica has programming experience working with youth at the James River Boys and Girls Club and will be a wonderful complement to the team, working with Community Organizer, Claudette Grant and Community Outreach Assistant, Sheri Hopper.

“I’m looking forward to creating some fun, engaging and educational activities for the kids as well as helping where I can,” says Jessica.

We are excited to welcome Jessica to our team.

UACC Kicks Off the Season with Market Days

UACC pano
The community garden at Friendship Court is just about to pop with summer fruits and vegetables.  This community garden, as well as several others around Charlottesville, are managed by the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC), a grassroots organization that promotes social equity through collective gardening and produce distribution. UACC is the continuation of an urban agriculture project called QCC Farms, started by the Quality Community Council (QCC). The idea for QCC Farms began with a group of residents at Friendship Court and 6th Street who were looking for a way to bridge the social barriers between their communities. The project started with a series of community conversations which culminated in breaking ground at the Friendship Court Garden in May of 2007 and the 6th Street garden in June. When QCC disbanded in 2011, committed local residents and volunteers formed UACC to continue the valuable work of bringing community members together through urban agriculture.Toni at UACC garden at Friendship Court

Toni Eubanks is one of several board members of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and has been volunteering her time to work in the garden for many years now.  Toni says she became interested in learning what was happening in her new backyard, and that’s when she approached Todd Niemeier, better known as “Farmer Todd,” to see how she could get involved. Toni adds, “Throughout the year, the garden helps engage the community and provide fresh produce to those that can’t afford it. People get to learn about plants and gardening, but it’s also a way to bring our diverse community together.”

UACC conducts many programs to help teach people about community collaboration and leadership, but a big part of what they do is distribute produce free of charge using a time-based, alternative currency called farm tokens. When someone volunteers in one of the UACC gardens, they earn a wooden farm token for every half hour of service. Volunteers can then use theirs farm tokens or share them with neighbors. Farm tokens are exchanged for garden produce at weekly, volunteer-operated distribution events called market days. During each growing season, UACC conducts 20 to 24 market days all held in community centers or on lawns in the Friendship Court, Crescent Halls, 6th Street, and South 1st Street communities. Depending on the time of year, one farm token is worth a bag of vegetables that would cost roughly $15 to $30 in the grocery store. Market days also serve as a place where people can share information and make connections. Guest chefs offer cooking demos and share recipes made with the weekly harvest. Other community organizations come from time to time as well to share information about upcoming events and happenings in the neighborhood.

Anyone in the neighborhood can volunteer in the community gardens which helps promote neighborhood engagement. With over 600 volunteers, comprised of both adults and youth, the gardens provide a great way to grow and share healthful food together, along while creating a strong foundation upon which to build a healthier community.  The Youth Leadership Team worked together with Farmer Todd last fall over several sessions to learn more about the Friendship Court Community Garden and envision and sketch what the new garden could look like after the redevelopment process.  While he doesn’t know exactly what form the garden will take in the future, Todd says he has started doing some research around the idea of creating rooftop gardens and that feasibility for the Friendship Court Community. While keeping affordable housing at the forefront, he still hopes that through careful research and open dialogue, the future garden will start to take shape.

UACC garden

For more information or to volunteer at one of the gardens, see UACC’s website.

And here is a detailed map of the Friendship Court Community Orchard.

The next market day is this Friday, June 16th at Friendship Court at 4PM.

Jeanetha Brown-Douglas with JBD Mobile Catering Serving Up Nutrition and Building Community with the Kids at Friendship Court

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner singleThanks to community grants and donor support, Piedmont Housing Alliance is able to work with Jeanetha Brown-Douglas of JBD Mobile Catering to bring healthful, delicious meals to Friendship Court twice a week. This community meal schedule complements the community center afterschool activity and snack program and the Parks & Recreation enrichment program offerings. More than half of all Friendship Court residents are children (most under the age of 12). Nutrition is important to healthy development, but on an average household budget of less than $11,000, food budgets are tight. Jeanetha helps support nutrition and community building. Jeanetha also provides a great example of the creation and growth of a successful small woman-owned business. Piedmont Housing Alliance has worked with JBD Catering after Jeanetha participated in Piedmont Housing Alliance’s VIDA program, which helped her grow her savings and her business. She graduated from CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), a local business education program offering under-resourced local entrepreneurs education, micro-loans, mentoring, and networking. Since her first contract, Jeanetha has received other contracts and continues to build her catering business. She is also proud to work with the City of Charlottesville’s Onesty Family Aquatic Center (Meade Pool) to provide healthy snacks to the children and families who frequent the center over the summer months. Jeanetha says, “I love to give back to the kids!”

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kidsHaving an adequate meal is vital for nutrition, but it is also a way to connect Friendship Court children to community, technology, education, and health.

JBD Mobile Catering helping feed the kids a hot and healthy meal is helping lay the foundation for a successful future of Friendship Court.

Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner with kids 2Jeanetha Brown Douglas community dinner kids 2

Youth from Friendship Court Participate in PVCC’s KidsCollege Spring Break Academies

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with girlSpring break means sometimes kids are at home searching for ways to keep themselves busy during their time off from school.  However, several third- through sixth- graders from Friendship Court stayed busy participating in a week-long Spring Break Academy offered by PVCC called 3D Terrain Explorations.

John Haverkamp, who has a background in artisanal crafts and computer software instruction for youth and adults, kept the Friendship Court kids busy for the week. The class ran from April 3-7 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. each day and taught the kids how to create a 3-D world.  The kids explored a variety of 3-D programs such as World Machine, Unity and Autodesk 123D to learn about 3-D computer terrain creations. Through a step-by-step process, the youth generated a 3-D computer walk-through in the Unity Game engine and also built real cardboard topographic dioramas of their terrain. While creating these worlds, the youth learned about the processes of geological and ecosystem simulation models. Tory Twitty, Friendship Court Activity Coordinator, was on hand to help John out.

Kids College Spring Break Academies John with group

This Academy was the result of an ongoing partnership between Piedmont Housing Alliance and PVCC KidsCollege. During the past several years, dozens of Friendship Court students have been able to take advantage of this program that PVCC offers.

Thanks to Piedmont Virginia Community College for their continued partnership and work with the Friendship Court youth who seemed to have a blast.

We also thank Verizon for their $10,000 grant in support of STEM programming which serves to close the technology gap, provide high-quality educational opportunities, improve school readiness, and build community for the families who live at Friendship Court Apartments.

Kids College Spring Break Academies kid1 Kids College Spring Break Academies kid group

Master Plan Digest: 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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What do you think? Continue the conversation with a comment below.

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)

Master Plan Digest: How Does Friendship Court Fit into the Charlottesville Context?

Redevelopment plans for Friendship Court will be designed to address the housing needs of local families. Our design team examined how Friendship Court relates to local demographics and the overall housing market in Charlottesville. Here’s what they found.

City of Charlottesville

The City of Charlottesville, centrally located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has a population of just over 48,000. Home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and major medical centers, Charlottesville is a thriving city with a vibrant downtown anchored by the downtown mall.

The 11.75-acre Friendship Court site—bounded by Garrett Street on the north, 2nd Street on the west, Monticello Avenue on the south, and 6th Street on the east—sits just a block and a half from the core of downtown.

The Charlottesville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes the city and five surrounding counties, with a total a population of approximately 219,000. The majority of those residents live in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Median household income in the MSA is $84,100. The median resident age is just over 34 years.

Friendship Court in the Charlottesville Context

Over the past 10 years, the level of development around Friendship Court has increased dramatically. Charlottesville is experiencing rising rents and adding housing, new businesses and stores. Friendship Court residents can see the pace of change, yet they haven’t benefited from this development.

Some 500 people live in 150 apartments at Friendship Court today. More than half (58%) of residents are under 18. 93% of units at Friendship Court have a female head of household. 88% of residents are African American, and 12% are white.

The average annual household income at Friendship Court is approximately $11,000. Many residents hold down more than one job, yet the average wages for those families is just $16,200. By the federal definition, the majority of Friendship Court residents live at or below the poverty level.

Among adult heads of households, more than 50% are employed, with the remainder receiving Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF), child-support payments, or some combination of these. About 20% of the working adults earn more than $20,000.

Most working adults in Friendship Court work in Charlottesville or nearby Albemarle County. The largest clusters of workers are employed by the University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville City Schools, Albemarle County Schools and small businesses. The residents at Friendship Court are representative of other Charlottesville residents with limited housing options, given current rents in the market.

Just over 27% of all Charlottesville households live in poverty. Many of these households are employed but have limited housing options. A large percentage of them work in industries crucial to a functioning economy: food service, healthcare, retail and administration.

Units now coming to market in Charlottesville skew to middle- and upper-income levels and rents, with a significant percentage targeted to empty nesters and students, according to Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Policy Recommendations: Affordable and Workforce Housing (a report prepared by the RCLCO consulting firm for the City of Charlottesville and released in 2016). More affordable options can be found in the surrounding counties, but the greatest job opportunities and highest wages are found within the Charlottesville city limits.

Increases in income for Friendship Court residents lead to an increase in their rent, adding another financial burden. If residents start to earn more than allowed under Section 8, they must leave and often have to move outside the city limits to find housing they can afford. This condition has informed the plan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court by maintaining all 150 deeply affordable Section 8 units while also introducing higher-income units.

Filling this missing middle tier of housing between affordable and market-rate will allow families to remain on site and in the city as their incomes rise. This directly addresses the recommendations of the SIA report and the housing study prepared by RCLCO, which calls for middle-income housing within walking distance of jobs and educational and cultural opportunities.

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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 Charlottesville’s affordable housing gap.

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

Master Plan Digest: Proposed Site Plan for Friendship Court

The proposed site plan that emerged from our Master Planning process for redevelopment is more than just a pretty drawing – although we do think it’s beautiful! A multitude of issues guided the design team’s recommendations for the proposed number of buildings, their size, and placement on the site.

The proposed site plan you see is our best attempt to balance many important concerns for current and future residents, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the financial realities of redevelopment.

Some of the major issues that shaped the site plan:

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 take a look at the potential phasing of construction over the next ten years.

Source: Friendship Court Redevelopment Master Plan, December 2016 – Executive Summary (Master Plan Proposal: Proposed Plan)

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.

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 2
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.

PHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 photo boothPHA Friendship Court Community Dinner Feb 16 2017 3

Master Plan Digest: Key Concepts of the Master Plan Proposal

The master plan grew out of what we heard and learned, combined with the financial constraints of the project. Below are some of the key drivers that shaped the plan.

  • No displacement of current residents means a longer development timeline and the relocation of certain amenities.
  • Providing a mixed-income environment with greater opportunities and amenities is only possible with greater density.
  • To pursue an integrated approach to development, distribute affordable units evenly across the site and throughout the buildings.
  • Locating parking below buildings creates more open space and associated amenities.
  • Relief on certain zoning requirements such as height or parking make it possible to create more housing on the site.

What we heard: The fence makes Friendship Court feel like an isolated prison.
What we propose: Remove the fence and create neighborhood blocks by extending streets into and through the site.

What we heard: Stormwater management is a critical need on the site. Existing green space is prone to flooding and underutilized.
What we propose: Bioswales and regrading can reduce the stormwater issue while providing more green space.

What we found out: Belmont is made of primarily single family homes.
What we propose: Adjust building heights to be more sensitive to the scale of Belmont.

What we found out: Second Street will be an important connector between the Mall and a redeveloped IX site.
What we propose: Ground-floor retail and community-serving amenities along 2nd St. and Hinton Ave.

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

Next week on the blog, we’ll explore issues that shaped the proposed site plan.

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

Meet Tyquan Mayo, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Tyquan Mayo Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Tyquan Mayo is one of seven Friendship Court residents on the Youth Leadership Team. The team has been meeting regularly since September at the Friendship Court Community Center and is an important part of Piedmont Housing Alliance’s resident engagement in 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.

Tyquan, 13, is in the 8th grade at Buford Middle School.  He has a special love of hamsters and cheese sticks. He is interested in meteorology and hopes to become a meteorologist one day after possibly attending Michigan State University.  His favorite color is bright pink and he likes listening to the Beatles.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Tyquan said Dubai because he thinks it looks like a really beautiful place.  Tyquan says he is learning about managing money along with becoming a leader.

Tyquan was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to learn more about what is going on with the redevelopment.  He is interested in finding out what it’s going to look like, especially the green spaces.

Mark your calendars to watch Terri Allard’s, Charlottesville Inside Out on March 23rd where she features Tyquan in a segment dedicated to the work Piedmont Housing Alliance does throughout the community.