Guest Blog: Transforming Charlottesville’s Friendship Court

Photo: Local community leader Mohammad Yousaf gives a blessing at the groundbreaking ceremony. Courtesy of Piedmont Housing Alliance.

The FWD #G20 • 535 Words

via Piedmont Housing Alliance

Piedmont Housing Alliance has broken ground on the community-powered redevelopment of Friendship Court.

No work is insignificant.  All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On a frigid morning in January 2022, residents and leaders of Charlottesville gathered in the heart of the city for a momentous occasion—the groundbreaking of the new Friendship Court. 

Formerly known as Garrett Square, Friendship Court was built in 1978 with project-based Section 8 assistance. Developed as a 12-acre master block after the previous African-American neighborhood fabric was erased during Urban Renewal, the community has largely remained economically and physically isolated from the rest of the city.

The celebration had been years in the making for one of Charlottesville’s oldest housing complexes. Friendship Court is home to 150 families and is undergoing a multi-year physical redevelopment to transform the property into a mixed-income and mixed-use community that will be connected to the adjacent neighborhoods.

To ensure all voices were heard in the redevelopment, Piedmont Housing Alliance, the nonprofit managing the property, established a resident-led Advisory Committee in 2015. This representative body includes residents elected by their neighbors and other members from the broader Charlottesville community. The Committee planned and developed their future homes and the upgraded community by reviewing preliminary site assessments, architectural and engineering design work, and participating in the master planning process. 

Redeveloping Friendship Court offers an opportunity for transformational investment in the lives of current and future residents. Though redevelopment alone cannot redress the full history of structural racism and other systemized inequities, the work is fundamentally rooted in bending the arc of the future. Toward this end, using an equity lens and national research of best practices, Piedmont Housing Alliance initiated two critical support services for Friendship Court residents:

  1. A place-based workforce development initiative to facilitate community members building assets, collectively and individually. Underway since March 2019, the initiative connects residents with job-related resources by partnering with existing job training organizations with one-on-one support and establishing one of the first HUD Family Self Sufficiency programs at a non-public housing site.  
  2. Another resource prioritized by the residents is establishing an onsite Early Childhood Center (ECC) as critical support for families to obtain and maintain employment. The ECC will also act as an important long-term, education-based disruptor of poverty and create fulfilling, living-wage employment for residents with appropriate training.  

All four phases of redevelopment are expected to be completed by 2029. All 150 existing Section 8 subsidized units will be replaced. An additional 300 new units will be added to create a tiered-income community model, serving households below 30% AMI up to 80% AMI. 

Co-powering the residents as decision-makers in the redevelopment process and bringing the expertise of their lived experience to the table shapes the new vision for a healed future. This partnership created a model for a reparative community that meaningfully supports residents’ self-determination while serving as a model for an abolitionist housing development locally and nationally.

To make a tax-deductible donation, or stay in touch with Piedmont Housing Alliance, visit their website,, and follow their TwitterFacebook and YouTube for timely updates.

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