Friendship Court

Charlottesville, VA
Designer, Spatial Justice Strategist
2015 -

Friendship Court is a 40-year old low-income affordable housing complex in Charlottesville, VA. Located just 2 blocks south from the street where Heather Heyer was killed during the racist incursion in 2017. But the wounds of racial injustice in Charlottesville didn’t start with that tragedy. It traces back to a town built on former plantations, or more recently, urban renewal in the 1960s when vibrant Black neighborhoods were razed and concentrated zones of racial poverty like Friendship Court were created.

Although in good condition, it has never had a major renovation. That will change in 2021, when a major multiyear physical redevelopment begins to transform this isolated property into a mixed-income neighborhood that is reconnected with adjacent neighborhoods. But healing the injustice requires looking beyond built form to a more expansive frame that can address the ecosystem of oppression.

So Piedmont Housing Alliance and the project team have been working a redevelopment strategy that not only has zero displacement during and after construction for the current 150 Section 8 households, but in partnership with a resident-led Advisory Committee, we’re also creatively exploring ways to not only create a better home, but a better quality of life. The residents have been co-powered as decision-makers in the process, bringing the expertise of their lived experience to the table and shaping the new vision for a healed future. The result ranges from strategies about how to embed a “ladder of affordable opportunity” concept into redevelopment to programs related to spatial justice themes like Generational Wealth and Cultural Empathy + Belonging.

Ultimately, the hope is to create a model for a reparative community that meaningfully supports the self-determination of Friendship Court residents and serves as a model for an abolitionist housing development locally and nationally.