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Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team Takes Trip to Washington, D.C.

YLT outside AA museum

The Youth Leadership Team and team leaders outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

For two days in June, the seven members of the Friendship Court Youth Leadership Team toured our nation’s capital with several adult leaders to study urban design, architecture, and community engagement. It was the culmination of a two-year program of civic education to help empower them to be active contributors to Friendship Court’s redevelopment plan. The trip was funded by a grant given to Piedmont Housing Alliance by the Society of Architectural Historians stewarded by board members and UVA Architecture School Professors, Beth Meyer and Barbara Brown Wilson.

The grant, in the amount of $4,990, enabled the team to visit many sites in DC on June 19 and 20. They traveled to Union Station by train early Tuesday morning and enjoyed lunch there along with observing the interior architecture of the building before meeting with Equitable Development Manager, Vaughn Perry to discuss the 11th Street Bridge Park project. Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of environmental planning at the University of Virginia who traveled with the group said, “This has been a two-year program where we’ve all been learning about communities and leadership. Watching some of our recent middle school graduates asking really hard and important questions at the 11th Street Bridge Project just shows their level of sophistication.”  Ty’Quan Mayo asked, “Are they really going to build the 11th Street Bridge?” To which Vaughn Perry answered, “Yes, it better get built. We have worked too hard for this.” Observations and questions were also shared regarding the safety of the space and how emergency vehicles would access the site if needed.

Vice President of Development, Matthew Steenhoek, discusses the District Wharf project, Photo credit Peter Krebs

In the afternoon, the group met with Matthew Steenhoek, who works with PN Hoffman, the developers of DC’s District Wharf, a multi-phased, sustainable, mixed-use project. At the Wharf, they were able to observe an architectural model of the new development along the Potomac River and hear a brief discussion about urban planning and design of buildings and public spaces.  After the discussion, the youth were able to tour the Wharf and see the actual public spaces that were viewed on the architectural model.

Beth Meyer addresses the group inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Emilee and Addi

Emilee and Addi during lunch break at the museum

On day two, the youth members were given a special tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture before its usual opening time at 10 in the morning.  The group was given a chance to walk through the expansive museum to learn about our nation’s history and racial inequality.  Youth leadership team member Daemond Nowlin said, “I enjoyed reflecting on the past and learning more about my ancestors.”  After the visit to the museum, the group congregated on the grassy hill near the Washington Monument and listened to Landscape Architect Professor Beth Meyer speak about the design of public spaces and the structural relationships between other adjacent public buildings, such as the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and the White House.

Beth addressing group by the Monument

Beth Meyer addressing the group near the National Monument

In the afternoon, the youth visited a housing development called SeVerna on K, which was completed in 2013 by Grimm + Parker Architects which are also the architects designing the Friendship Court redevelopment. The mixed-style and mixed-income housing complexes are located in the heart of NoMA, a vibrant, multi-generational community, and is a great example of a similar project to that of Friendship Court. Lead architect, Mel Thompson, spoke to the team about the history of the site, after the unsuccessful management of a previous housing development on the site and how now, many displaced residents have returned to the neighborhood, which includes many new amenities, access to transit, and proximity to new schools, a library and a recreation center.  The youth were filled with energy while they walked around the SeVerna on K, a project very similar to the envisioned future of Friendship Court.

Mel Thompson, lead architect, explaining some of the features of the SeVerna on K

Having the opportunity to tour a couple of apartment units and walk through the building and its amenities gave the youth team a feeling of excitement and possibility for what the future Friendship Court might feel like. The tour ended with the youth soaking in the view from the rooftop terrace. It was a wonderful way to end the two-day trip.

Thanks to all the leaders and chaperones on this trip to include, Claudette Grant, community organizer for Friendship Court, Beth Meyer, landscape architecture professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board member, Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor at the School of Architecture and Piedmont Housing Alliance board vice president as well as Margaret Haltom, recent UVA graduate and Peter Krebs, community outreach coordinator with Piedmont Environmental Council.

The program is equipping resident youth leaders with valuable skills, experiences, and networks to both provide input for the redevelopment and to create educational and career opportunities. Piedmont Housing Alliance remains committed to helping the Youth Leadership Team effectively provide input for the redevelopment of their community.  _______________________________________________________

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.