Barbara Brown Wilson

Barbara Brown Wilson


Barbara Brown-Wilson is an assistant professor of urban and environmental planning at UVa, and serves on the Piedmont Housing Alliance board. She has been closely involved in the Friendship Court redevelopment process.


How did you get involved in the redevelopment of Friendship Court? What does community engaged design consist of?

Why is it hard for communities of color and of low-wealth communities to trust architects and designers?

How do these fields of planning, design, zoning, architecture, land use—how do they change to be more equitable?

What should be the role of UVa as we discuss more equitable housing strategies?

At Friendship Court, if redevelopment goes according to plan—do you have any worries about the broader neighborhood outside Friendship Court changing, gentrifying in a way that pushes existing residents out?

Do intentional mixed-income communities work?

How do you think the redevelopment process has gone at Friendship Court? Is it a template for other future projects?

What are the historically racist origins of our land use and development systems?

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.