Residents file lawsuit to try and stop Norfolk’s St. Paul’s redevelopment plan

Posted at 3:57 PM, Jan 14, 2020

NORFOLK, Va. - Residents have filed a federal lawsuit to try and make the city come up with a new plan for the redevelopment of the St. Paul's area.

The city's plan to tear down public housing units in three neighborhoods has been talked about for years. The city wants to build mixed-income housing in the place and says some residents could later return to the rebuilt homes.

The lawsuit was filed by residents Evonne Bryant, Sylvia Givens, Conswayla Simmons, Residents of St. Paul's Quadrant Tenant Group and New Virginia Majority against Norfolk, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and HUD Sec. Ben Carson.

The lawsuit says the redevelopment plan doesn't do enough to look out for the future of the current residents.

"We want to halt it until it's changed correctly," said Stan Brown, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. "It shouldn't be gentrification at the expense of black residents of this area."

The lawsuit discusses Norfolk's history and says the city is already segregated by race.

"Our concern is that this project has elements of a repeat of that history," said Brown. "It's an unfortunate history where every time there's some kind of development blacks don't have the opportunity to go back to the area."

Local housing officials have said the project will unite the entire city and bring new life to the area, which they've described as crime ridden and poverty-stricken. The city has received a $30 million grant from HUD to help complete the project.

"We're hoping the city and the Housing Authority will recognize that the path they're on now is not the right one," said Brown. "We'd be willing to work with them to work out that better path."

All of the defendants in the case told News 3 they have no comment on the lawsuit. Details of the suit were first reported by The Virginian-Pilot.