Residents begin return to Southeast Newport News as redevelopment continues
Shantell Williams lived in Southeast Newport News for a decade, the last three years in Ridley Circle.
Ridley Circle was a 65-year-old public housing neighborhood that earned a reputation for being dangerous and an area of concentrated poverty.
Williams was among the 249 families who left as Ridley was scheduled for demolition. She took a housing voucher and moved with her three children to Denbigh in the northern end of the city.
She was "stalking" the listings for an apartment complex called The Lift and Rise every day, waiting for a new apartment to open up in her old neighborhood.
The apartments are 10 blocks north of where Ridley used to be. It's an off-site part of the broader redevelopment effort.
Williams and 14 other families from Ridley Circle recently moved in to the new 81-unit mixed-income complex. Another 15 families are on the way.
"I'm so happy to be back home," she said Thursday, sitting on a bench outside the new building on Jefferson Avenue.
Williams is among the first group of former Ridley residents to return to newly-built housing as a $58 million dollar effort proceeds to remake the neighborhood.
Newport News committed to finding former residents a place to live if they want to come back, as well as offering services like tutoring.
"I chose to come back for the different activities and things, the programs they have for my kids here so they can excel," Williams said.
The wood-frame skeletons of 155 more apartments are rising from the dirt now at the actual Ridley Circle site.
Those are expected to be finished sometime late next year, officials with the city's housing authority said.