The Richmond Planning Commission on Tuesday endorsed the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s preliminary plan to redevelop Creighton Court.
If approved by the City Council later this year, the housing authority will eventually raze the public housing community in East Richmond to make way for a mix of 700 single-family houses, apartments and town homes on the approximately 38-acre site.
“The buildings are physically obsolete. Constructed in the 1950s, they do not meet current code requirements,” said RRHA interim CEO Stacey Daniels-Fayson. “The infrastructure needs to be replaced for the health, safety and transformation of our families.”
The goal is similar to that of other public housing agencies across the country managing aging buildings; RRHA itself is aiming to redevelop its six largest public housing communities.
About half of Creighton Court’s roughly 500 units are vacant after RRHA stopped leasing units as residents turned over in 2019 to prepare for redevelopment.
While prior redevelopment plans languished due to a lack of funding, state officials recently approved a 9% low-income housing tax credit award for the first phase of the redevelopment project that RRHA officials say will deliver 68 new units, 21 of which will be reserved for households with federal Project Based Vouchers. The rest will be affordable to households making less than 60% of the area median income, or $54,000 for family of four in the Richmond metro area, said RRHA spokeswoman Angela Fountain.
RRHA, which owns the property, is partnering with The Community Builders, a national nonprofit housing developer, on the project.
“I think this is a big deal,” RRHA Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Neil Kessler said in an interview before the Planning Commission vote. “This is transforming it into a mixed-income development where everybody has opportunities and can improve their lives in safe, high-quality housing.”
It’s unclear how many residents will remain after the project is completed, but Fountain said residents will be able to stay or move into publicly supported housing elsewhere. She said rents would remain pegged to each household’s income level no matter where they go.
Tenants rights advocates have pointed to RRHA’s previous redevelopments in Blackwell and the former Dove Court in Richmond’s North Side as examples of forced displacement. Fountain said the agency plans to engage residents to share information about the project and help inform the design of the new Creighton Court, which RRHA officials hope to complete over several building phases within the next decade.
A planning department staff report says the minimum lot size for the single-family houses in the redeveloped community would be 1,100 square feet. Multifamily dwellings would be no larger than four stories or 60 feet tall. In addition to the various housing types, the plan also envisions a large linear park at the center of the community.
“The program goal is to deliver a high quality mixed-income neighborhood that will attract both current residents and residents of differing income levels,” says an RRHA summary of the plan submitted to the city in December. “The quality of the new homes will blend the affordable, work force and market rate housing making them indistinguishable from each other.”
While the new properties are intended to be a mix of deeply affordable and market-rate housing, several local residents recently said they were troubled to see houses erected adjacent to Creighton as part of the broader redevelopment effort recently listed at around $400,000.
Of the 93 Creighton households RRHA surveyed earlier this year, two out of three said they wanted a portable voucher, called a tenant-protection voucher. About one in six said they wanted a subsidy tied to another newly renovated apartment complex around the region, like the nearby Armstrong Renaissance development.
Fountain said 16 households said they want to remain in Creighton, a choice that would require moving into another public housing unit until construction of the first phase of the project is completed.
The Planning Commission unanimously approved the preliminary plan for the full redevelopment project after a brief presentation. The commission agreed to recommend that the City Council approve the plan on the condition that it strike vinyl siding from a list of potential building materials, citing fire safety concerns.
“I think this is an extraordinarily important project,” said Planning Commission Chairman Rodney Poole. “With respect to building materials, I think it’s a very cogent amendment.”
Fountain said RRHA expects the full redevelopment project to take about a decade, but that a precise timeline for the remaining phases will vary based on funding availability. RRHA officials have previously said that first phase will be completed by 2023 or later.