Thursday, July 13, 2006

When she first moved in 1994 from Richmond to the Lincoln Terrace public housing complex in Roanoke, Candace Williams recently told Shawna Morrison of The Roanoke Times, it was the "pit of the pits." Drug-infested. Crime-ridden. And dilapidated.

There was, she added, a "stigma" to living there and, even worse, residents often thought to themselves "I'm actually living in the pits, so I feel like the pits."

[Photo 1: Villages at Lincoln]
Neighbors gather to celebrate completion of Villages at Lincoln.

But not anymore. Thanks to a $40 million project � including a $15.4 HUD grant � the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority has completed the revitalization of the Lincoln Terrace, transforming it into the Villages at Lincoln, an event enthusiastically celebrated by some 2,000 people on Saturday, May 6th.

In recent years, most public housing revitalization projects HUD has funded have been complete "tear downs" of every building in the target area. Though the 300 apartments at Lincoln Terrace were built in the 1950's, the Authority realized that their original workmanship was of such quality that renovation, not demolition, was the order of the day. The only demolitions undertaken, in fact, were to address density issues and to allow for the construction of duplexes and 22 lease-purchase, single-family homes.

"We have achieved what we wanted to achieve," said the Roanoke's executive director, John Baker. "We've created a neighborhood." And created it, he could have added, on-schedule and within the project's original budget.

[Photo 2: Playground at Villages at Lincoln]
New Playground at Villages at Lincoln

Candace Williams certainly agrees. "It's a community," she said, noting that the area's physical revitalization has led to a transformation in the personal lives of many of the residents, including her own.

"When I first got here," she told The Times, "I didn't have anything." But then the single mother of two took advantage of the Authority's Family Self Sufficiency program and earned a G.E.D. Then a bachelors degree from Radford University. And now she's working on a masters degree in counseling at Liberty University.

Now, children play outside, neighbors talk to one another and people want to live in the neighborhood. Folks at the Roanoke Authority cared "enough to make an upgrade," said Williams, "so naturally that will raise the expectations of people" who live here.

No more "pits." No more "stigma." The "trans-vitalization" of the area and those who live there, The Roanoke Times editorial board recently concluded, "shows how important it is cultivate the opportunity to succeed."

Content Archived: September 09, 2009