Can Friendship Court be redeveloped?

Can Friendship Court be redeveloped?

Surrounded by boutique shops and restaurants to the north, condos to the south, and the new Downtown ACAC just across the street to its west, Friendship Court anchors a rapidly changing neighborhood. Charles Martin is the executive director of Urban Vision, which provides residential services at low-income housing complexes. He knows Friendship Court sits on a chunk of land that makes developers drool.

Charles Martin, the executive director of Urban Vision, knows that Friendship Court sits on a "very valuable piece of property," but says that its owners are committed to affordable housing.

"It’s getting pricey all around us," says Martin. "So obviously this is a very valuable piece of property." Rumors have circulated the city from various sectors: Friendship Court could possibly be ripe for redevelopment in the coming years. And with expensive housing and businesses bordering its gates, what developer or land mogul could resist reprogramming the property into something other than affordable housing?

Formerly Garrett Square, Friendship Court started as an affordable-housing project in 1977. The property was bought in 2002 (when it was renamed) by the NHTE Piedmont Garrett Square Limited Partnership, a joint group formed by The National Housing Trust (NHT) and Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA), using a national tax credit program. Garrett Square Limited Partnership now operates as the managing general partner.

Scott Kline of NHT says Friendship Court is not going anywhere for a while because of the Section 8 contract the partnership has with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). "Nothing can change until that Section 8 contract runs its course," says Kline. "Our mission is to preserve affordable housing, so anything that would happen in the future would involve, in some form, the preservation of affordable housing."

PHA’s Stu Armstrong says that even though the 40-year Section 8 contract, which began in 1977, will be up in 2017, he doesn’t see Friendship Court going anywhere. "We made a commitment to the city when we bought it…that there would be no net loss of affordable housing," he says. "So I really don’t see it changing. Most likely Friendship Court will stay in place for a very long time."

Back at Friendship Court’s community center, Martin is waiting for kids from the summer camp to return from ice skating. He says the organizations are "very much committed to keep [Friendship Court as] affordable housing.

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