Southeast community remembers Ridley Place, city leaders celebrate new chapter as second phase of development begins

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 20:31:33-05

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Changes are happening in a historic Southeast Newport News community.

The second phase of housing for the city's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is creating additional housing options and amenities while revitalizing a historic neighborhood.

The demolition of the Ridley Place housing community, which used to house 259 residents, continues. It's one of the city's oldest public housing projects, and although families said they're sad to see it go, city leaders said this new chapter in the city's book is important.

"It's a large site, it's over 18 acres and needed so much work," said Karen Wilds, the executive director of the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority. "The only thing that made sense was to start all over again."

The project, which is currently in its second phase, aims to revamp the community and create additional housing options.

According to Wilds, the current plans are as follows:

  • One three-story multifamily building with 41 apartment units on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and 16th Street. The building includes space for retail activity on the ground floor.
  • 14 two- and three-story townhomes with 114 units.
  • 24 single-family home sites for the future development of for-sale housing.
  • Health and Wellness Trail for community use.
  • Early Childhood Development Center for children from six weeks to four years of age.

"Everything that we're doing includes mixed income and mixed-use housing," Wilds said.

Uganda Jones, a longtime resident of the Southeast Newport News community, said although she didn't live at Ridley Place, this project is important to her.

"We have our blood, sweat and tears on this project. We have families that have lost loved ones, friends in this community, and they deserve a better chance and that transformation and that opportunity to live in a safe home," Jones said.

Jones is also a member of the citizens advisory committee, and has been involved with efforts to revitalize the area for years.

"It's about time. So many resources, so many programs have been taken out of the Southeast community," Jones said.

The $58 million project is being funded by a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other city resources.

Leaders said construction of Phase 1 began six months ago and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

"I'm always happy to see a positive change in our community out here because it is rough down here," said Ernest Daniels, a Newport News resident.

Leaders said families who were displaced from Ridley will be able to move back to the new community using a voucher, charging them 30% of their income for rent.

The city is planning a free event Saturday, February 26 to commemorate this project and celebrate its new chapter. The event will begin with brief remarks at 11 a.m., followed by a community art and oral history project until 1 p.m.

Activities will take place at 17th Street and Jefferson Avenue, with parking along Jefferson. The event is free and open to all.