A working-class neighborhood

  • With direct access to the center of the city and the rail line, the surrounding area is developed into a business corridor—a lumber company, an ice company, a coal plant, feed and farm supply stores, a flour mill.
  • Much of the land immediately beyond these businesses—what would later become the Garrett Street neighborhood—is sold and subdivided into residential houses.
  • In 1924, the land that would become 509 Ware Street is subdivided. In 1960, Laura. M. Dowell, an African-American, bought this house, where she lived until the 1970s, when she was forced by the white city government and housing authority to sell it as part of “urban renewal.”
  • In 1933, the land that would become 211-213 Diggs Street is subdivided. In 1952, Edward J. Henderson, an African-American, bought this house, dividing it into two separate apartments, which each rented for $60/month, affordable for working class African-Americans at the time. In the 1970s, Henderson was forced by the city government and housing authority to sell the house.
  • Around this time, the majority of single-family homes in Charlottesville are being constructed in other parts of the city—North Downtown, Locust Grove, Fry’s Spring, Meadowbrook Hills, Rugby Hills, and many others. All of these properties contain covenants in their deeds restricting their ownership to only white residents.

That said lot shall not be sold, or leased to or occupied by a person of the negro race, but this shall not be construed to prohibit the keeping of negro servants on said property.

— Racial covenant from a property deed in Charlottesville

The Reimagining of Friendship Court

By Jordy Yager

The redevelopment of Friendship Court is slated to be the largest new construction of low-income housing undertaken in Charlottesville in more than two decades. The plan alone is groundbreaking, having been directly created by current Section 8 residents in partnership with Piedmont Housing Alliance. City staff calls it the most nuanced and complex plan they’ve ever encountered. It ambitiously attempts to balance promises of zero resident displacement with the city’s broader affordable housing needs, while also calling for hundreds of new, likely higher-income, residents to move in, as residents hope to de-stigmatize the lasting effects of poverty born out of generations of racist government policy and neglect.

This year will be the make-or-break year for Friendship Court’s redevelopment efforts. Millions of dollars in city, federal, and private funding stand between the massive plan and the highly anticipated 2020 groundbreaking. And while the green lights have begun to align and most residents are excited, the plan has its critics — those who call for greater levels of resident autonomy, greater security measures to guard against social and cultural displacement, and greater reparations for past wrongs.

In crafting this project, we’ve tried to tackle all of this and more by separating the longer narratives into five major questions:

Part 1: What is the plan?
Part 2: How did we get here?
Part 3: Does mixed-income housing work?
Part 4: Who does Friendship Court belong to?
Part 5: What’s next?

But we also wanted to give you access to as much of our reporting as possible, so we’ve created a timeline that details the history of this area, dating back 150 years, through the use of more than 130 maps, documents, archived articles, and photographs. Similarly, we wanted you to actually hear each of the two dozen long-form interviews we conducted, and not merely the portions we’ve included in the individual stories. So we’ve included more than 300 audio clips throughout the story: in the articles, the timeline, and on each person’s profile page. Our hope is that with all this, more of the picture will begin to emerge, and that, as we stand ready to make powerful and significant changes in the city, we all can help craft the solutions.