Ceremony hold for Crescent Halls kickoff

For the second time in the past six weeks, an official ceremony has been held to begin major construction at a public housing site in Charlottesville. Crescent Halls was built in 1976 at the intersection of Monticello Avenue and 2nd Street SE. Brandon Collins is with the Public Housing Association of Residents.

“As we all know, urban renewal happened in Charlottesville in the 60’s and we hear a lot about Vinegar Hill but it also happened here on Garrett Street and that was the birth of this building, Crescent Halls,” Collins said.

The Public Housing Association of Residents put together a four-page booklet outlining the amenities in the new structure (download)

Collins said a lack of investment in the facility has led to a series of well-documented maintenance problems, including a lack of air conditioning during the summer months. He said the Public Housing Association of Residents pushed to create a Bill of Rights to protect citizen rights during relocation. 

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority was created to serve as an instrument of what was termed “slum clearance” following a narrow referendum held on April 15, 1954, 67 years ago today. The proposal won by only 36 votes. At the time, The Daily Progress reported that approval of the new authority carried three of the city’s four wards in the referendum. A master plan intended to guide redevelopment of all the sites was adopted in the summer of 2010 but nothing happened. 

The events of the summer of 2017 moved the rehabilitation project forward. In October 2020, Council approved a performance agreement with CRHA that governs the use of $3 million in direct city investment in Crescent Halls as well as the first phase of South First Street. Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker also serves on the CRHA Board of Commissioners.

“By doing this today we also show that promises that have been broken for decades are finally being fulfilled,” Walker said. “People shouldn’t have to wait for decades for their basic needs to be met and that happens when a community doesn’t own its responsibilities.” 

Walker said construction should take about 18 months. 

Riverbend Development has shepherded design and financial planning for the project. Part of the project is funded through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) that are used to encourage private investment. The credits were granted by the Virginia Housing Development Authority in 2019 to Crescent Halls Reno LLC, which is made up of the CRHA and its nonprofit arm known as the Charlottesville Community Development Corporation (CCDC). (VHDA application)

Under the terms of the arrangement, the Crescent Halls building will no longer be owned by the CRHA but will instead be owned by a limited liability company (LLC) created specifically for the project. That’s the same arrangement for the first phase of South First Street which broke ground on March 7. 

Unlike the CRHA, the CCDC must pay to pay property taxes to the city of Charlottesville for the rehabilitated structure. An agreement signed on March 5 between the city, CRHA and CCDC compels the city to make a subsidy to CRHA to cover the costs for CCDC’s tax liability for a period of 15 years. 

Cornelius Griggs, president and CEO of GMA Construction, also spoke at the dedication ceremony.

“We are here today partnering with our great partners at Martin Horn who are going to assist us and work with us to deliver an excellent facility to the residents of Crescent Halls,” Griggs said.

CRHA Executive Director John Sales also spoke at the event. He took that job last August after serving for a brief time as Charlottesville’s housing coordinator. 

“One of the things that really excited me about taking this job was an opportunity to work with the residents to build a future that they saw themselves living in and I think this project as well as South First Street and all the other future projects will have that same aspect,” Sales said. 

CRHA Executive Director John Sales speaks at the dedication ceremony on April 14, 2021. The event can be viewed in its entirety on the CRHA Facebook page.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 15, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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