Southwood residents inspired by the Sunrise Park vision
Southwood residents recently toured the nearly-completed Sunrise Park project as part of Habitat’s community engagement initiative aimed at determining residents’ needs, wishes and strengths in preparation for eventual redevelopment. Sunrise Park represents the first trailer park transformation in the country to be completed without resident displacement, and will, in many ways, serve as a template for a similar – but much larger-scale-- transformation of Southwood.
Southwood is currently home to 1,500 residents living in nearly 350 trailers on 100 acres in the Albemarle County growth area. It represents the largest concentration of affordable housing in the region, and also the biggest opportunity for revitalization, as many of the trailers have fallen into disrepair and the park’s infrastructure continues to age.
The need to redevelop Southwood is exemplified by the plight of Johanna Price and her children Jerry and Moesha. After many years of living in a leaky trailer at Southwood, the Albemarle County Schools bus driver sought out a better living situation for her family but was unable to find safe, decent, affordable housing without Habitat’s help.
“Even though I owned my own trailer, Johanna says, “I put off repairs because it didn’t seem worth it to spend money on something constantly losing value.” Price eventually applied for partnership through Habitat and purchased a home in the Paton Street community, Habitat’s first mixed-income neighborhood which was completed in 2011. Now Price – who proudly serves on the Paton Street Homeowners’ Association Board – shares a brand new, energy efficient EarthCraft home with her children.
Habitat hopes that trips to Sunrise and the testimonials of new homeowners like Johanna will inspire other Southwood residents to follow suit. Sunrise Park and Paton Street are living examples of what is possible when the entire Charlottesville community comes together in partnership with hard working families seeking a hand up.
Other current community engagement efforts at Southwood include:
- Initiating a survey process whereby we are sitting down with each and every resident to determine his/her needs, desires and strengths in order to inform plans for redevelopment.
- Providing support services to hundreds of residents through our Community Coordinator.
- Collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club to enable service to more children on site through the installation of two mobile units adjacent to the Southwood Community Center, which currently houses youth-oriented programs.
- Hosting monthly resident information sessions to discuss initial plans for redevelopment and to address any questions or concerns.
- Hosting block by block meetings to increase community cohesion and prepare residents for phase II of the redevelopment survey.
- Founding the Community Advisory Committee, which includes seven Southwood residents, area service providers who are active in Southwood, Habitat Board and staff, and representatives from the school system. Meetings provide a forum for all stakeholders to ask questions, express concerns, and share ideas regarding the redevelopment process.
Although we don’t yet know details of the new Southwood, one thing is clear: It will be rebuilt based on the energy and sense of community of the people who live there. Habitat anticipates beginning redevelopment of Southwood in 2016.