RRHA board begins process to redevelop Mosby Court South

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/21/2021, noon
Dr. Basil I. Gooden is the new chairman of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s nine-member Board of Commissioners.
Dr. Gooden

Dr. Basil I. Gooden is the new chairman of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s nine-member Board of Commissioners.

Dr. Gooden, a former secretary of agriculture and forestry for Virginia who holds a key rural development post with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was elected Tuesday night as the board also endorsed starting the process for redeveloping Mosby Court South in the East End.

The board also gave a thumbs up to a plan to transfer the Calhoun Center in Gilpin Court to City Hall.

Dr. Gooden, who oversees state rural development programs, narrowly won the chairmanship with a 5-4 majority to succeed the interim chair Neil S. Kessler, who also competed for a full two-year term.

Mr. Kessler, a retired attorney who specialized in commercial real estate, moved up from vice chair to the top board post in April after Commissioner Veronica Blount resigned the chairmanship.

The commissioners also elected M. Barrett Hardiman, a professional lobbyist, as vice chairman. He, too, was elected on a 5-4 vote over Commissioner Patrice Shelton, a certified community health worker who founded and directs the Hillside Court Partnership.

During the meeting at the new Armstrong Renaissance development in the East End, the board put the Mosby Court South redevelopment on the front burner.

The board unanimously authorized RRHA interim Chief Executive Officer Stacey Daniels-Fayson to begin the process of negotiating a deal to redevelop Mosby Court South. The Mosby Court South initiative is the latest segment of RRHA’s holdings to become a target for redevelopment as the authority moves to privatize its apartment holdings.

One of four separate elements under the Mosby Court umbrella, the 12-acre, 106-unit section of public housing sits across from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and backs up to a fast redeveloping area of Church Hill that has seen a surge in housing prices. The idea of replacing the old apartments with new apartments and homes and creating more density in the area was first broached in 1995 by then-Mayor Leonidas B. Young II.

The idea was rejected at the time, but gained traction in 2019 when an RRHA consultant, Urban Design Associates, identified the complex as ripe for redevelopment into a mix of 400 to 500 units of low-income, affordable and market rate housing.

Ms. Daniels-Fayson has promised that RRHA will work with residents on creating a plan of redevelopment and has already identified a Connecticut affordable housing developer, The Richmond Group, as a potential partner.

This new initiative has begun even as several other projects move forward.

The old Baker School in Gilpin Court has been full remodeled and is the new home for the final 50 households that occupied the 200-unit Fay Towers. Most of the residents were previously relocated from the high-rise on 1st Street to new apartments in two other complexes.

RRHA also has begun relocating about 100 households in Creighton Court in preparation for the first phase of redevelopment of that complex that faces Nine Mile Road. The city is preparing to provide more than $6 million in federal funds to help cover the cost of new infrastructure.

Separately, the board gave the green light to Ms. Daniels-Fayson to pursue the change of ownership of the decaying Calhoun Center to City Hall. Mayor Levar M. Stoney has proposed and City Council is poised to approve next week a city plan to invest $8 million to renovate the build- ing and repair and reopen the pool that has been shut down for a number of years.