Friendship Court Residents Vote to Rename Their Community “Kindlewood” 

Renaming effort includes input from 85 percent of residents and coincides with opening of homes in Phase 1 of the four-phase redevelopment project 

Residents of Kindlewood stand at the western entrance of their community near a new sign and freshly painted columns.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (June 1, 2023) – In a resident-led effort, Charlottesville’s Friendship Court community has been renamed Kindlewood. The undertaking was directed by a Rebranding Committee consisting of residents of Friendship Court with support and guidance from Piedmont Housing Alliance and Iconograph, a local creative design studio. 

The existing 150-unit Friendship Court community is undergoing a four-phase, zero-displacement redevelopment process that will ultimately provide homes for more than 400 families at three tiers of affordability. A resident-led Advisory Committee conceived the idea of a new name to go with the expanded community. Seeking to overcome the economic and social isolation reinforced by the original design of Friendship Court, residents advocated for not just new homes, but also better connection to the surrounding area – improving access to employment and wealth building opportunities to enable families to grow and prosper.  

Ultimately, the name Kindlewood was chosen with input from the entire community. While 85 percent of residents participated in the voting process, even more were engaged in door-to-door conversations with Rebranding Committee members. Ezhar Zahid, an 11th grader at Charlottesville High School and youth member of the Rebranding Committee, has lived in Friendship Court with his family for almost four years. When asked about the renaming efforts, Zahid said, “Our focus was mostly on getting the entire community’s voice. We made sure they heard about the plans.”  

“That’s how the name ‘Kindlewood’ came to be,” Zahid continued. “Many residents proposed something about ‘kinship,’ ‘kindness’ and ‘togetherness.’” Kindlewood reflects the core values of respect, connection and peace. The name also evokes kindling wood, symbolizing new beginnings, warmth and a cozy gathering around a home’s hearth. 

Myrtle Houchens – former resident, current community liaison and member of the Advisory Committee – said, “When I came and started with all this, first with Garrett Square and then Friendship Court, there was no resident involvement with the naming. It was very important that the voice of the residents be heard. It brought the community together. It was a great process – to see the residents take the leadership and do the work was excellent.” 

Ms. Houchens and her two children were among the first residents to move into the new development in 1979. Formerly known as Garrett Square, the property was built in 1978 with project-based Section 8 assistance. Developed as a 12-acre master block after the primarily Black neighborhood fabric was erased during urban renewal, the community has largely remained economically and structurally isolated from the rest of Charlottesville.  

Executive Director of Piedmont Housing Alliance Sunshine Mathon said, “For the past six years, Piedmont Housing has been working with residents of Friendship Court in a partnership that elevates them as partners and as co-designers of their future. The work they have accomplished is truly amazing. We’re incredibly proud to have walked side by side with them through this process. Kindlewood will provide some of the most energy efficient, healthy, solar powered and durable homes anywhere in the Commonwealth.” 

Funding for the redevelopment is layered and complex, and it could not be achieved without tremendous support from the City of Charlottesville, Virginia Housing, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and our investor partner, Vibrant Communities Drive Change (VCDC). The property is jointly owned by Piedmont Housing and National Housing Trust. 

“When National Housing Trust and Piedmont Housing Alliance acquired Friendship Court in 2002, the emphasis at the time was to preserve the property through the extension of the HUD Section 8 contract while completing critical renovations,” stated Kevin White, Managing Director of Real Estate for NHT.  “As the property embarks on a new chapter through a transformative redevelopment, we are honored to continue our partnership with Piedmont Housing and are inspired by the residents’ leadership and their participation in the renaming and creation of a new neighborhood.” 

About Piedmont Housing Alliance 
Piedmont Housing Alliance is an affordable housing nonprofit working in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. The mission of Piedmont Housing is to create housing opportunities and build community through education, lending and development. Piedmont Housing is a HUD-certified housing counseling agency, state-certified Community Housing Development Organization and US Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution. 

About National Housing Trust
National Housing Trust (NHT) creates and preserves affordable homes to provide opportunity, advance racial equity, reduce economic disparities and strengthen community resilience through practice and policy. NHT provides expertise nationally and locally in preserving and improving affordable housing through policy innovation and advocacy, real estate development, lending, resident engagement, and energy solutions. NHT created NHT Communities (NHTC) in 1999 as the real estate development arm of NHT, and since its creation, has participated in the preservation and improvement of over 10,000 affordable units in 13 states and the District of Columbia. NHTC maintains an ownership interest in nearly 4,000 units in 34 apartment communities. 

View a photo gallery of Kindlewood renaming, construction and redevelopment. 

Media Coverage

Media Contact: 
Wes Myhre, Communications Strategist