Housing Authority: School Should Be Community Anchor 

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A redevelopment theme that gained traction during the mayoral race — rebuilding public housing around schools — may soon get its first case study.

Earlier this summer, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority closed down Dove Court, a 60-unit public housing project in Highland Park, which is scheduled for redevelopment as a mixed-income community.

Central to those plans is nearby Overby-Sheppard Elementary School. Anthony Scott, the authority's executive director, told city officials and residents at a community planning meeting last week that plans call for the school to become a centerpiece of the new Dove Court.

Roughly 400 pupils attend the school, which school officials say is due for a “moderate renovation” in 2016.

If the authority's redevelopment of Dove Court goes as planned, it could mean as many as 300 new homes in the neighborhood, which would likely lead to an infusion of new pupils at Overby-Sheppard. Richmond school spokeswoman Felicia Cosby says that depending on Dove Court's progress, renovations at the school could start sooner.

Steve Heikin, a principal with ICON Architecture, the firm the housing authority hired to help plan the renovation, says the goal is to position Overby-Sheppard as a community-based school that would offer services in the evening, possibly a day-care facility, a senior center, or both. The housing authority has also hired ICON to help plan the redevelopment of Gilpin Court.

The authority says once the new Dove Court is complete, plans call for 30 percent of its units be set aside as subsidized housing.

Before beginning demolition on the Dove Court development Nov. 1, the authority moved the 29 remaining families. Of that group, 10 relocated to other public housing in the city and 19 moved into in homes or apartments, according to authority spokeswoman Valena Dixon.

The challenge will be for the authority to secure enough funding to make the Dove Court plans a reality. Attempts to secure funding for the project a year ago failed, but housing officials plan to seek federal funding, through the state's low-income housing tax credit program, again next spring.

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