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A partnership is in the works to build a “Crossings II” — a project like The Crossings at Fourth and Preston that could help end chronic homelessness in Charlottesville.

There are approximately 41 people in the Charlottesville area who have experienced homelessness for more than a year, according to the 2018 annual point-in-time count. The Crossings II project would include 50 one-room apartments with indefinite subsidies and supportive services intended for that population.

“One more building could effectively end chronic homelessness in Charlottesville. That’s what has generated the excitement and support around it this time,” said Julie Anderson, the director of housing development for Virginia Supportive Housing.

VSH developed and administers the Crossings on Fourth Street Northwest. Anderson said that the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless approached VSH and other stakeholders roughly 1½ years ago about the idea of Crossings II.

A potential location for that project has surfaced recently — the corner of Avon Street and Levy Avenue, where Community Bikes and the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville currently rent space.

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority owns the property, and the CRHA Board of Directors would need to approve that use of the site.

“The goal of ending chronic homelessness in Charlottesville is something that lines up very nicely with the goals and mission of CRHA,” said CRHA Executive Director Grant Duffield. “The fact that we have other partners who want to … work with us towards those ends is just phenomenal — outstanding.”

Anderson said that approximately five private properties have been identified as possible sites, but locating the project on city-owned land would make the project less costly.

“We have found land to be expensive in Charlottesville,” Anderson said. “Being affordable, these projects can’t support a lot of debt.”

The Avon-Levy location

The discussion about creating a second Crossings comes at the same time as CRHA is deep into the first phase of public housing redevelopment.

A redevelopment committee composed of staff and board members of CRHA and the Public Housing Association of Residents, as well as anyone else who wants to attend, has led much of the process.

That committee suggested CRHA’s Avon-Levy property as an appropriate location for Crossings II.

“Councilor [Wes] Bellamy brought [the Crossings II idea] to the redevelopment committee about three weeks ago,” said PHAR lead organizer Brandon Collins. “He came in with a good sales pitch, but I don’t think he needed to sell it that hard. I think there’s always been an interest from people on the committee for doing something like that.”

Bellamy could not be reached for comment. In a recent tweet, he said that he had been working on the project for 18 months. He first mentioned the project on Twitter in early January.  

Bellamy suggested at the redevelopment committee meeting on Jan. 28 that Crossings II could go on CRHA’s Sixth Street property.

“Sixth Street offers an opportunity for housing for families, whereas Levy really is suited more towards single room occupancies — one-bedroom apartments, two-bedroom apartments,” Collins said.

In addition to 50 units of permanent supportive housing, Crossings II would include 30 affordable units at a rate determined by the amount of funding available.

Collins said that many details still need to be ironed out, including whether there are public housing units, as well.

“What’s the role of the supportive services for folks who aren’t part of that piece of it? Can we get these services rolling for everybody?” Collins said. “[The Crossings] is amazing. They’ve got a bajillion partners, and it’s working out well at the Crossings, but it takes a lot of work.”

VSH’s supportive services depend on residents’ needs but include case management, counseling, and community building.

“It can be as simple as someone just checking in and making sure you’re doing OK, that you’ve got food in the apartment,” TJACH Executive Director Anthony Haro said in January. “When you don’t provide those types of supportive services, it’s more often that people fall out of housing again, back into homelessness.”

Haro has been advocating for Crossings II but declined to comment for this article.

Among other details to be decided is the role of Riverbend Development in the creation of Crossings II.

Riverbend currently has a memorandum of understanding with CRHA that states that “[d]evelopment of the CRHA property at Levy Ave./Avon St may also be undertaken under the auspices of this MOU, as ‘Phase 1.5.’”

“In general, our role in this process is really providing technical and professional expertise and financial assistance,” said Riverbend Vice President Ashley Davies. “We agree that supportive housing is needed in the community, so I don’t think we feel an ownership of what has to happen on any of those sites.”

The redevelopment team is beginning a master planning process of CRHA’s South First Street neighborhood. Davies and Collins said that the Levy Avenue property would be included in that planning process.

At the moment, however, Davies and Collins said that they were focused on applying for low-income housing tax credits to finance the redevelopment of Crescent Halls and new construction on the South First Street ballfield.

“That tax credit application is going in for Crescent Halls and South First Street in mid-March, so maybe we’ll have some breathing room from there,” Collins said.

Next steps

Rafael Sandoval, the manager of Community Bikes, said that the bicycle shop has started looking for its next location.

“[We’re looking for] a lot of space to put bikes, a nice patio, a nice location,” Sandoval said. “This location is perfect, right here, because we get people coming from Avon.”

Community Bikes receives donated bicycles and parts, fixes them and teaches community members how to fix bikes themselves. The shop also donates bicycles to children and clients of organizations like the International Rescue Committee and The Haven.

CRHA does not charge rent or fees to either Community Bikes or the UACC. The leases for both organizations are now renewed on a monthly basis.

“CRHA has committed to provide at least 90 days advance notice to vacate,” Duffield said by email. “The earliest CRHA anticipates issuing a notice to vacate would be no sooner than July of 2020.”

Dave Norris, the redevelopment coordinator for CRHA, said the Crossings II working group hopes to apply for tax credits for the project in the spring of 2020.

“Well before we applied for funding, we would certainly engage extensively with the neighborhood around that site,” said Norris, who was an early advocate of the first Crossings. “Community engagement is part and parcel of everything we do.”

The CRHA board is scheduled to meet next at 6 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from Yale in 2016. She covered growth, development, and affordable living. Before writing for Charlottesville Tomorrow, she produced a podcast on education and caste in Maharashtra, India.

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