LETTER- Dogwood leaves great legacy

The Hook's year-ago "Tectonic Shift" cover story [April 11, 2007] recently came to my attention. This feature is an exceptionally well done story by Lisa Provence about Eugene Williams, a man who has spawned a tectonic shift in my life and in the lives of many others. 

Although I had worked in Charlottesville for over a decade as the Director of the Charlottesville Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), I was first introduced to Eugene in 1980 while working for Satyendra Huja in the Charlottesville Planning Department, shortly before leaving town to complete an MBA at the University of Buffalo in Western New York. 

I had worked with many civic leaders such as Francis Fife, who had a long history of improving housing in Central Virginia. Little did I know at the time that the Williams family would be creating a new chapter in Charlottesville's history that became known as Dogwood Housing Limited Partnership. 

Working after hours and weekends, we crawled through all 62 units in the properties his family had acquired from the McCreary estate, compiling initial specifications for the massive renovations that were yet to be financed. I introduced Eugene to David Kudravetz, a board member of CHIP, who provided expert guidance to us in preparing the capital budgeting for the project.

The package had to be reworked repeatedly to meet the requirements of an ever-growing mix of financing. We often worked in the law office of Frank Buck from 6pm until the next morning, using his desktop computer to revamp the capital budgeting package for the project.

I thought for sure that Eugene and Lorraine Williams would become discouraged and lose hope, but after many sleepless nights it was apparent that they would never give up.

Amazingly, an unprecedented package of public, private, and conventional financing was approved, and these blighted properties were transformed and remain like new today. This is a legacy being carried forward by Keith Woodard, the new owner of Dogwood Properties of Charlottesville LLC. 

The neighborhood impact of the Dogwood Housing Partnership has been historic, but the impact that Eugene has had on its occupants has been even more dramatic. For 27 years he has inspired his residents to better their lives. He used his monthly Newsletter, Informed People are Better People, to celebrate the accomplishments of his tenants. These people touched by Eugene's passion for self-improvement will be the real legacy of the Dogwood Housing Limited Partnership. 

John Taylor
Lockport, NY