Shymora Cooper

Shymora Cooper


Shymora Cooper is a native of Charlottesville and sits on the board of New Hill, Charlottesville’s first African-American led community development corporation. She is a former member of the Public Housing Association of Residents, and has worked for the Charlottesville Redevelopment Housing Authority.


Do you like living in the Burnet Commons neighborhood?

What are some of the differences between living here and your former neighborhood, Sixth Street public housing?

Do you feel there’s a lot of judgement in Burnet Commons?

What do you attribute that judgement to? Is it differences in race, economics, culture, or something else?

Do you worry that mixed-income housing in Friendship Court will result in a longer term social or cultural displacement of residents who live there now?

What would you do differently at Burnet Commons? How would you change it?

Habitat does a community-engagement process that allows neighbors to build each other’s homes, did that happen here? Did it bring you closer together with them?

What else could a new community do to create those meaningful connections between residents?

Do you feel like Burnet Commons is your neighborhood?

Do businesses in this area focus on lower-income residents or employ them at living wages?

How does race affect housing issues and income levels in Charlottesville?

How have you seen Charlottesville change in your lifetime?

Do you think your kids will stay here after high school?

What would it take for things to improve in Charlottesville?

How does race play into that?

Do you feel more at home in majority-black communities than in mixed-race or majority-white communities?

What was your thought process behind getting a house through the Habitat process?

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.