NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The process to move thousands out of Norfolk’s oldest public housing complex has started.

Tuesday, the Norfolk’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NHRA) began sending out federally mandated letters to residents of Tidewater Gardens to let them know that their current unit will need to be vacated as part of redevelopment efforts.

“Do not move at this time,” the letter reads several times.

“The process is clearly starting, so we want to encourage folks to visit the People First offices if they have not already done so,” said Dr. Susan Perry, Special Assistant to the City Manager, during a presentation to Norfolk City Council Tuesday afternoon.

People First is an effort launched by the city to aid in the relocation of 1,700 families.

In January 2018, Norfolk City Council voted to have the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority move ahead with plans to eventually level the Tidewater Gardens, Young Terrace and Calvert Square public housing complexes — and replace them with mixed-income communities. The goal is to increase the quality of life for residents and leave behind the neighborhoods’ poverty-stricken past. 

Tidewater Gardens sits just opposite Interstate 264 from Harbor Park, and is the first phase of a nearly 200-acre redevelopment. Relocation will happen in Tidewater Gardens in four phases.

Norfolk was awarded $30 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in May to help pay for the project.

“It does not tell them to move at this time. It is not the official 120 day notice residents have heard us talk about before,” said Donna Mills with NRHA.

Perry indicated that 120-day move out notices could start being mailed to the 187 units identified as NRHA’s “Phase 1” of relocation by late August. At that point, residents can either choose to relocate to another NRHA property or take a voucher and live in privately owned section 8 housing. 

However, the NRHA announced Tuesday some people could be moved now.

“We have always desired to allow families with school aged children to move during the summer, so they can begin getting resettled into whatever new school system they may desire,” Perry said.

If a family chooses to take advantage of that offer, they would effectively be receiving their 120-day notice ahead of schedule an NRHA Spokesperson confirms.

NRHA says that at the end of 120 day notice if residents do not have a new place to live, they will work with them until they find a location.

Mills expects phase two to begin next summer but it could start sooner depending on when phase one is complete.

For more information, visit the NRHA website or visit the People First offices in Tidewater Gardens.