ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The redevelopment of Albemarle County’s Southwood neighborhood is a beacon of hope at the end of a very challenging year for an area full of frontline workers. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, progress has been continuing behind the scenes, and as soon as next month that dream will start to become real.
The pandemic brought about huge changes to Habitat For Humanity’s plans for the neighborhood. According to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville CEO Dan Rosensweig, their first thought was trying to figure out how to keep people living in Southwood safe.
“Our first thought was about that is how do we support, folks, as they do the essential services that keep this community running along,” Rosensweig explained. “Very quickly, my staff figured out how to do the community engagement work, how to do the neighborhood bonding online. That includes things like simultaneous translation so people from different cultures can speak to each other in real time.”
The next step is scheduled to get underway in January. That work will see a currently unoccupied piece of land developed into a new development inside the neighborhood.
“We’re creating abundant opportunities for people to move from their trailers into new homes,” Rosensweig said. “As they leave their trailers, we’ll be able to clear that land for the next phase.”
It’s all being done with the future home owners as full partners. Rosensweig says that’s the only way communities become sustainable.
“It’s actually empowering them instead, so that you can stand back and let their genius come through. Really, they’re the experts on this community, not us,” he explained. “That’s the way neighborhoods are durable: when people invested on not just financially but emotionally and spiritually.”