Trading up creighton court public housing replacement – richmondmagazine.com west la college address

A drawing of church hill north shows brick walkways, trees and architectural embellishments. (image by torti gallas + partners courtesy the community builders, inc.)

At a cinder-block apartment turned office where family transition coaches meet with residents of the creighton court public housing complex in richmond’s east end, a woman exits through a first-floor waiting room decorated with bright renderings of her possible future home. She eyes the images with an expression of optimism mixed with wariness.

A few blocks southwest, crews have been installing water, sewer and storm-water lines and creating a street grid at the 22-acre former armstrong high school site to make way for new housing that the self-employed hairdresser could potentially move into next year.Family transition

called church hill north, the project is the beginning of a long-awaited redevelopment of the 65-year-old creighton court and the armstrong site. This spring, work crews will lay the foundation for playgrounds, add trees and landscaping, and install streetlights.

“we have a plan. The planning is good,” reflects the middle-aged woman, who declined to give her name. She adds, “I’m realistic. I’m looking at what’s going on around me. But it’s also wait-and-see.”

Her wariness stems from the memory of other city building projects that displaced residents. She’s also skeptical of creighton residents’ ability to make themselves attractive to landlords in the mixed-income development, which will include market-rate units as well as public housing. Public housing residents currently pay rent that is no more than 30 percent of their income.Church hill

“if people have lived in the projects all their lives with no training and no job, are they going to get thrown out in the cold?” the hairdresser asks.

That’s not the idea, says scott andrews-weckerly, one of the two family transition coaches in the office. He’s been holding back-to-back appointments with residents to create a plan to transition out of creighton to live in a new community that could eventually encompass 1,000 homes, with both apartment rentals and homeownership options.

Andrews-weckerly says he has been explaining to residents that they can qualify for the new apartments by getting their credit scores and financial profiles in order.

The richmond redevelopment and housing authority describes church hill north as a one-for-one replacement of the existing 500 creighton court units.Church hill north the project is a public-private partnership between RRHA, the boston-based firm the community builders (TCB) and the city of richmond.

Plans for the armstrong high school site include 256 units in five phases. Construction is slated to start in march on the first phase: 60 mixed-income family units in a townhouse-style development and 45 senior units in a three-story building, both to be completed in april 2019, along with a 3,400-square-foot community center. This summer, work will begin on phase two: 70 mixed-income dwellings in a townhouse-style development to be completed by the end of 2019. Construction of another three-story building with 45 senior units would start in the fall of 2019, to be finished by the end of 2020, along with eight owner-occupied units.Church hill the cost of the first two phases is estimated at $25 million.

“if we can get the residents to walk through their concerns, then generally the reception is pretty good.” —scott andrews-weckerly, family transition coach

“it took close to a year of being here all day, every day to earn residents’ trust,” andrews-weckerly says. “if we can get the residents to walk through their concerns, then generally the reception is pretty good.”

As depicted in architectural drawings, church hill north is a vast improvement over creighton’s barracks-like atmosphere. The development features a park, brick walkways, trees, architectural embellishments, and distinct front and back yards. Clinics, a culinary institute run by reynolds community college, more apartments and an independent supermarket are under construction about a mile west on nine mile road — backed by philanthropist steve markel, vice chairman of markel corp.Family transition

Funding challenges have slowed the development. More than a year ago, the city missed out on a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of housing and urban development that would have given the project a huge boost. In mid-december, during a meeting where activists railed against the RRHA’s record of poor services, the richmond city council approved issuance of $4.9 million in general obligation bonds through HUD’s section 108 loan program to help fund the construction.

The need for better housing was underscored when frigid temperatures gripped the city in early january and news reports revealed that residents in more than 50 creighton units were struggling to stay warm due to heating system problems. An outcry about the RRHA’s slow response led to the resignation of T.K.Family transition somanath, the authority’s executive director, later that month.

“no one deserves to not have heat,” says creighton resident mcarthur jefferies, a single father, while taking care of paperwork at the community’s administrative offices on a 24-degree day. Jefferies says he has had problems with heat for six years. That and other factors, such as crime, make him want to move out. He says he knows about the family transition coaches, but hadn’t yet met with them, because he’s been busy finding work as a cook at a fast-food chain.

Back at andrews-weckerly’s office, another creighton court resident who came to talk about her moving plan says that she thinks the building renderings look beautiful, but she has reservations about the project. She acknowledges that she is one of the few residents taking advantage of the counseling service.Church hill “most people are ignoring the situation,” she says.

“I don’t even know if I will get into it,” adds the young mother, who asked not to be identified. “if they can’t provide heat, how are they going to provide living services?”