Liz Ogbu

Liz Ogbu


Liz Ogbu is a San Francisco-based architect who specializes in resident-driven design that addresses racial and economic injustices. Ogbu helped create the community organizer position and the current resident advisory committee at Friendship Court. She has been closely involved in the redevelopment process.


How did you get involved in this project? Why were you hired?

Is community-engaged design a new way of design?

What’s happened in the design world since urban renewal?

How is the field of design shifting to incorporate more of an economic and social justice framework?

Why did you feel that Claudette’s hiring as a community organizer was important to the process of redevelopment?

What are the challenges in community-engaged design and how do you overcome them?

What is the role of race, social justice and trauma?

Can the redevelopment of FC be a model for the rest of the city? Why is it important for the city to build trust?

Frank vs. Sunshine? What were the concerns with the 2016 master plan?

What else can we do? What is the role of race, social justice and trauma?

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.