The city declares areas “slums,” creates a housing authority, and votes to raze Vinegar Hill

  • In 1954, Charlottesville‘s first public housing authority is created in a narrow vote that passes by just 36 votes: 1,105 in favor; 1,069 against.
  • In 1960, a citywide vote to give the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority the ability to redevelop Vinegar Hill passes by another narrow margin of 23 votes: 1,331 in favor; 1,308 against.
  • The city at the time was divided into a ward voting system, and in each case, the poorer wards—those most likely slated for redevelopment—vote overwhelmingly against each measure.
  • In 1960, Laura M. Dowell buys her house at 509 Ware Street.

The poorer areas of Charlottesville produced the greatest resistance to the housing authority.

— Christopher S. Combs, writing in the Magazine of Albemarle County History


What happened in the 1960’s to African-American low-income neighborhoods in Charlottesville?

Did you experience racism growing up?

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.