Crystal Johnson

Crystal Johnson


Crystal Johnson has lived in Friendship Court since 2005, and is a member of the Friendship Court resident advisory committee that designed the neighborhood’s plan for redevelopment. She is the mother of six children, and is earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mary Baldwin University.


How did you get involved with the resident advisory committee?

How have you seen the committee evolve over the years you’ve been involved?

How did you get the number of market rate units to be reduced to 150?

And you shortened the construction timeline?

What were your thoughts about wanting to reconnect the neighborhood to the surrounding area?

When did you move here?

How have you experienced prejudice or stigma towards you or other Friendship Court residents?

What are you worried about, in terms of the construction time period?

What about socially or culturally, are you worried about the neighborhood changing?

Why did you not want to do more units at 60 or 80 percent AMI? Why did the committee want 150 units priced at market rate levels?

Why did residents want to write the recent letter to the City Council?

Is this a template for other people to use? Are there parts of the process you think people should take away from this?

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.