Piedmont Housing Alliance Participates in NEA Conference


On Monday, May 9th, the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC held a one-day conference to present ideas around community engaged design for designers and others interested in learning more about improving  communities across the US.  Frank Grosch, CEO of Piedmont Housing Alliance and Claudette Grant, our Community Organizer at Friendship Court, were invited, along with Liz Ogbu of Studio O, to present their work to date to plan for the redevelopment of Friendship Court Apartments. Barbara Brown Wilson, a member of our board and an assistant professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at UVA’s School of Architecture, moderated the panel. The conference was co-hosted by the NEA and the Surdna Foundation. Over one hundred designers and funders attended the conference.

The goal of the conference was to engage people in a dialogue about how design can create opportunities for people to drive the process Surdna-Foundation-Logoof change in their own communities.

  • What are the equity and justice issues that historically excluded communities confront that we want to effect or change, and what does success look like?
  • What are the tools that designers use to build capacity and agency?
  • How are effective partnerships structured between designers and communities?

Frank added, “It was a great pleasure to be in the same place with so many good people all committed to equity in design and development.”


Friendship Court Apartments is a community of 150 apartments on 11.75 acres in the heart of Charlottesville’s downtown and in the middle of the City’s Strategic Investment Area (SIA). Residents of Friendship Court face many economic challenges, with 96% single parent households and a median household income of $10,800. In 2018, Piedmont Housing will become the managing partner for the community, and will have decision-making authority with regard to property management, and the business affairs of the partnership, and will have the opportunity to redevelop the property.

Working with residents, neighbors, stakeholders, and the City over the next three years, Piedmont Housing hopes to create an inclusive, vibrant vision for the future of Friendship Court. Friendship Court is home to a vibrant community where residents are actively working to design a brighter future .