Garrett Square becomes Friendship Court

  • Garrett Square is renamed “Friendship Court” in an effort to shake the stigma attached to the neighborhood from the outside.
  • In May, PHA and NHT open a community center where they offer adult graduate equivalency diploma classes and after-school programs.
  • Tenant Association president Mary Carey says residents have been asking for these services since 1996.
  • At the request of the Charlottesville Police Department, the city installs “No Parking between 9 p.m.-5 a.m.” signs on all four streets surrounding Garrett Square. It is an attempt to cut down on “loud music, fighting, vandalism, drinking and suspected drug dealing,” according to Police Chief Tim Longo.

It’s discriminatory. Nowhere else in Charlottesville do you have that sign. What it really does [is cause people who are already powerless to feel] inferior and helpless.

— Eugene Williams, civil rights activist and founder of Dogwood Housing

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.