Residents oppose razing of Garrett Street area

  • Rev. Paul Williams, the pastor of Church of the Living God, has lived in the Garrett Street area for most of his life. In an interview with the Daily Progress, he says he opposes urban renewal in his neighborhood and that he will move to the county if the redevelopment project moves forward.
  • A group of civil rights advocates form Charlottesville’s Fair Housing Committee and issue a report on more than 70 ads of white people selling homes in the Daily Progress. Only one would sell to an African-American buyer. One person’s response was: “Mr. Michael would not be willing to talk to a Negro buyer. He says he’s afraid the neighbors would shoot him.” Another said: “Mrs. Ashcom says the owner is in Florida but she is certain the owner would not be willing to show the house to a Negro buyer as it would cause an uproar.”

Just behind the warehouses and two blocks south of Main Street in downtown Charlottesville lies a 40-acre tract known as the Garrett Street section. It is home to 170 families, most of them Negroes.

— Daily Progress, June 19, 1966, Charlottesville Slum Has Rural Atmosphere

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.