RICHMOND, Va. -- Jonny Williams and his sister, Tonya, grew up in Creighton Court. Their mother still lives in the neighborhood.
All that's left of the homes off Bunche Place, a part of the public housing complex, are the concrete foundations. The demolition of those homes marks the end of Phase 1 of the complex's redevelopment plans.
"When I saw the bulldozer, I actually believed it, because they've been saying it for years and year and years. It's finally going to happen. It's a process. I'm just waiting to see what they're going to do with this," Tonya Williams said.
Now, Jonny is part of the demolition team, JG Workforce, bringing the neighborhood he knew down so something new can be put in its place.
“They liked my performance and gave me the opportunity to have me permanent and then also work within the warehouse. And I just love it," Williams said.
According to Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, there are 504 units in Creighton Court. The approved master plan is designed for an increase of 196 mixed-income units, making for a total of 700 units on the site.
RRHA reported original housing units were no longer up to code.
"Our families deserve homes that meet current code requirements that are not physically obsolete for rehabilitation. That's exactly what they'll be getting at Creighton," said RRHA Interim CEO Sheila Hill-Christian.
Mayor Levar Stoney applauded the affordable housing opportunities the multi-phase plan expects to offer at RRHA's New Beginnings event Wednesday afternoon.
"Housing is foundational," Stoney said. "It is a vaccine against poverty and the brick and mortar transformation underway here at Creighton Court will be transformational to the lives of Creighton residents for generations and generations to come."
The redevelopment process is broken down into multiple phases. Phase A construction, expected to produce 68 units, is set to be complete in May 2024. Phase B construction, expected to produce 72 units, is set to be complete in April of 2024, with leases available April-June 2024.
RRHA reports that all households residing in Phase 1 of Creighton Court have successfully relocated.
Every resident within Phase 1 was offered a tenant protection voucher, which allows families to choose their own unit and pay 30% of their income toward rent, with the rest of the rent paid to the landlord by RRHA. They were also offered off-site project-based vouchers, other RRHA public housing, and the option to return to Creighton Court when construction is complete.
RRHA and The Community Builders utilized "building-first" models to transition families out of their homes in Creighton Court.
RRHA Tenant Council President Marilyn Olds said at the New Beginnings event that she hopes there are no holdups with the construction process.
“We don’t want to be left hanging. I am sorry but I’m speaking for the folks who need these places to come back. And reasonable rent so they can pay," Olds said. "Who can define affordable living? What’s affordable for you may not be affordable for me. So, we've got to stay intact to make sure the process goes through."
The Williams siblings said they agree with Olds.
“If they’re gonna do what they say they’re gonna do, it’s a wonderful thing. A beautiful thing, because it’s supposed to be a stepping stone," Tonya Williams said.