The new era of Creighton Court is officially entering its construction phase.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held last week as work begins on the first leg of converting the East End public housing complex into more than 700 mixed-income units.
Led by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority and nonprofit developer The Community Builders, the project got off to a visibly noticeable start earlier this summer when a section of Creighton Court’s 504 units were razed.
Alicia Garcia, vice president of redevelopment at RRHA, said infrastructure work for the first phase is slated to start in late fall, including streetscaping and below-ground work, after which vertical development can begin.
Sixty-eight units are set to be ready for leasing in the summer of 2024, followed by 72 more units. The Timmons Group served as the civil engineer and KBS as the general contractor. A second and third phase will follow.
The new housing will also include amenity upgrades that have been lacking or outdated, such as improved electricity and HVAC systems.
“In that mix will be amenities such as a community center and we’ll continue to work with the Richmond City Health District to have space in there for them,” Garcia said. “Just spaces for the residents to play, enjoy community and live in.”
According to an FAQ document, Creighton Court had to be demolished due to its age, as its units were built in 1953 and were no longer up to code. Affected residents from the first phase were relocated by April, either through a tenant protection voucher, off-site project-based voucher or by moving to other RRHA public housing.
Since the neighborhood is deemed a low-income housing tax credit property, the new units will all be income-based and available to those at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income, Garcia said. Twenty-one units will be subsidized voucher units, available to those who have chosen to return to Creighton Court.
Each phase of new units is expected to cost around $22 million, said Garcia, though she emphasized this is a rough estimate. She said that the development has seen some price increases, given today’s economic pressures.
The undertaking is funded by Virginia Housing, using the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program and a number of state grants. American Rescue Plan funds have been devoted to the development of infrastructure.
The Department of Housing and Community Development also contributed, awarding $700,000 per phase.
Last Wednesday’s groundbreaking event was organized on the site of the now-demolished apartments and gave a platform to some with mixed feelings.
“The day they were knocking down the buildings, I rushed up here just in time to see,” said Marylin Olds, a former Creighton Court resident and president of the Richmond Tenant Organization, speaking unscripted and looking out at the site. “That was the most painful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You see something go down that you grew up in as a child.”
She expressed appreciation for the efforts by RRHA and the mayor’s office but insisted on the need to follow through with construction, speaking for those depending on it. In her view, Creighton Court had become unsafe.
The speaker lineup also included RRHA’s interim CEO Sheila Hill-Christian and City Council President Cynthia Newbille.
Newbille said: “I saw Mayor Stoney (at the Armstrong groundbreaking) and I told him, ‘I am sick and tired of year after year going to these residents and making promises. I do not believe anything till I see it. The day that they really dig that shovel in the ground, that’s the day I’ll apologize.’”
With Stoney in attendance, Newbille added: “So, I apologize.”
Creighton Court is part of a greater East End redevelopment effort in the area. Across Nine Mile Road, Armstrong Renaissance, a mixed-income housing community converted from the former Armstrong High School, is nearing completion.
That project was also led by RRHA and Community Builders and will include 256 units upon completion.
There are other ongoing housing projects in the East End area. Similar to Armstrong Renaissance are the upcoming Bowler apartments, a set of townhomes also converted from a former school. Nearby on Carrington Street, Unlimited Renovations is planning the construction of a mixed-use space, which will include 10 apartments.