Tag Archives: Piedmont Housing Alliance

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

The Framework Behind the Redevelopment Master Plan

By analyzing everything we learned and reviewing the physical and financial constraints facing the project, our design team devised a potential direction for the Friendship Court redevelopment master plan.

The planning framework that emerged is based on existing conditions, stakeholder interviews, and—most importantly—the commitment to not displace current residents.

Here are some of the key design drivers that resulted from this process:

  • 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 height and density.
  • To pursue an integrated approach to development, distribute affordable units evenly across the site and throughout the buildings.
  • Locating parking below buildings means creating more open space and associated amenities.
  • Relief on certain zoning requirements, such as parking, would support a greater number of affordable and workforce units.

The mixed-income nature of the new Friendship Court will provide a myriad of benefits, not only for the residents but also for the surrounding neighborhoods and the city as a whole: new connections, green infrastructure, open space, and an engaging design that activates local streets.

With a commitment to creating these amenities, cost becomes a larger factor. Collaboration between Piedmont Housing and the City of Charlottesville, among others, will be necessary to raise needed funds for this multifaceted development.

The draft master plan published in June included 480 residential units in buildings of four stories (three stories at Sixth and Monticello, where the buildings come closest to the Belmont neighborhood).

As Piedmont Housing and the design team worked through the possibilities for the site plan, we also worked through the costs and feasibility of that plan. It’s ambitious, with extensive development of the site, construction of new roads and pedestrian connections, structured parking below the buildings, extensive amenities and a long and costly phasing strategy required to avoid displacing current residents during redevelopment. We found that a project of 480 units, including 150 Section 8 units and 80 new affordable and workforce units, simply could not support all of that infrastructure.

To make the project financially feasible, we need to build 600 units. A project of this size would include all 150 Section 8 units; the 80 new affordable and workforce units; and 370 market-rate units. The additional market-rate units are necessary to bear the cost of infrastructure and, most important, to allow for creation of the below-market affordable and workforce units.

Simply increasing the height of buildings on Second and Garrett streets from four to six stories and increasing the maximum density from 43 units per acre to just over 51 units per acre can produce 600 units. (The building at the corner of Sixth and Monticello, nearest to the Belmont neighborhood, would remain at three stories.)

A somewhat taller and more dense project on the Friendship Court site is consistent with current uses surrounding the site and with several projects proposed for surrounding parcels.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll take a look at plans to improve connectivity.

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

On the Ground: The Physical Site Context of Friendship Court

While drafting the Master Plan, our design team identified several ways that the physical site of Friendship Court will impact redevelopment plans.

Elevation changes

The elevation of the Friendship Court site changes by as much as 35 feet from 2nd Street to 6th Street. In some instances, this elevation change may benefit the redevelopment by making it easier to building parking underneath buildings. However, it also creates challenges in how the new buildings can relate to the street level.

Regulatory Structure

Zoning allows for residential development up to 50’ high by right, higher than the current Friendship Court structures. Additional height would be allowed for buildings that have a mix of uses (for example, stores on the ground floor and apartments above). Current zoning would allow up to 505 units of housing on the property. The Strategic Investment Area plan recommends allowing higher density on the site, and the City is reviewing recommended changes in zoning.

Parking regulations

Parking requirements call for as many as 1.7 parking spots for each unit of housing. That level exceeds both current and projected future needs, and it would require additional surface parking that would force us to reduce the redeveloped site’s green space.

No Displacement

Our core commitment to no displacement of current residents, even during construction, creates a unique physical constraint by requiring that the first phase of development occur within the green space along 6th Street. In addition, other plan features—more bedrooms in the new units and the need to build around current units—have a strong impact on where and when each phase of development will occur.

* * *

In our next Master Plan blog post, we’ll see what needs to change – and what will stay the same – in the water infrastructure on site.

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

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)

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

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.

* * *

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)

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.

Meet Justin Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Justin Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Cour

Justin Jackson 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.

Justin, 13, is in the 8th grade at Buford Middle School where he says there are some pretty cool teachers.  He enjoys video games and is interested in becoming a video game designer. His favorite color is violet.  When asked where he would like to go on vacation, Justin said Dubai because he thinks it looks beautiful.  Justin enjoyed getting to see the movie Hidden Figures recently with other members of the Youth Leadership Team, and he commented that the movie portrayed great examples of leadership.

Justin was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because he wants to help make the community even better than it already is.

Meet Javisha Jackson, Member of the Youth Leadership Team

PHA Javisha Jackson Youth Leadership Team Friendship Court

Javisha Jackson 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.

Javisha, 17, is in the 11th grade at Charlottesville High School.  She has four brothers. Javisha is learning a lot about credit and savings through the Youth Leadership Program.  Her favorite color is blue and she likes listening to R&B and hip-hop music. Javisha would love to travel to Paris or Barcelona because they both look so beautiful. She is thinking of becoming an obstetrician when she gets older.

Javisha was interested in becoming a member of the Youth Leadership Team because it gives her the chance to help other kids out at Friendship Court. She also thinks this will help her learn about the redevelopment in a way for her to share with others.

ACAC Coordinates Holiday Gift Drive for Friendship Court Families

PHA Friendship Court ACAC Holiday Gift Drive

The countdown has begun—just a few more days until Christmas is here. Kids here in Charlottesville join with those around the world teeming with excitement awaiting the holiday tradition of gift giving. Christmas is a special time when family and friends come together and remember the good things they have. Children especially get excited because it’s also a time to give and receive presents! Some families, however, are not able to give as much to their children as they would like around the holidays. Thanks to ACAC Downtown, families at Friendship Court are receiving gifts through a special gift drive organized by the local athletic center to help bring joy to neighborhood children.

PHA Tory Twitty Friendship Court Activity Coordinator Holiday Gift

Interested families at Friendship Court were able to sign up for the Christmas gift drive with ACAC. The drive, organized by Assistant General Manager Paul Kyriacopoulos, has been going on for several consecutive years. Claudette Grant, Piedmont Housing Alliance’s Community Organizer at Friendship Court, provided Paul with the names of 100 children. ACAC put each of these names on its own ornament that hung on a Christmas tree in the foyer of the club. Guests could pick an ornament containing a wish list from the child whose name was on the ornament. Patrons returned the gifts to ACAC and the staff there coordinated gift-wrapping and delivery to Friendship Court. There, families are picking up the gifts just in time for Christmas!

PHA Friendship Court Family receiving gifts

In addition to these generous community gifts offered through ACAC members, two neighboring businesses helped three additional Friendship Court families, and Piedmont Housing Alliance assisted by providing gifts for six more Friendship Court children not on the ACAC list.

acac logo

We thank our downtown neighbors and partners, ACAC, Downtown Family Health Care, b:core methods, and MADabolic, for their support in helping bring Christmas joy to families at Friendship Court.

Happy Holidays to all!

PHA Tory Twitty Claudette Grant Sheri Hopper Friendship Court Gift Drive

Tory Twitty, Claudette Grant and Sheri Hopper