A group of Spartanburg residents put aside their differences of faith Thursday to bring new development to one of the city’s most important neighborhoods.
Members of the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance raised the walls of a new home their organization is building in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Spartanburg at 257 E. Hampton Ave. in the South Converse Street neighborhood.
The alliance, which is a network of individuals from at least a dozen faith backgrounds who have joined together to contribute to the common good of the community, is fully sponsoring the $70,000 home.
It will be the 124th home built by Spartanburg chapter of the faith-based nonprofit group since its formation in 1987.
Will Rothschild, a spokesman for the city of Spartanburg, said the South Converse Street neighborhood is one of the city’s “hidden gems.”
“It boasts a terrific neighborhood park and is close to downtown and many of the city’s most popular parks and recreational amenities,” he said in a statement. “The homes are a great mix of architectural styles and sizes. Sidewalks everywhere. A longtime community anchor in Cornerstone Baptist Church. If an urban planning grad student wanted to put together a report about how to design and site a great neighborhood, South Converse could be on the cover… That said, most of the housing stock is older, and that presents a challenge for some potential homebuyers. Habitat for Humanity’s project in the neighborhood is important because it will provide new investment and draw more attention to one of our most strategic neighborhoods.”
Tom Evans, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg, who is leading the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance’s Habitat project, said the home on East Hampton Avenue is the first of several the group plans to build during the next few years.
“When we see what’s going on in our society—how much division there is, or there is perceived to be—I knew people would want to come together,” Evans said. “Despite what you see in the media, I think most people do respect the beliefs of others. This was a way for us to demonstrate that visibly… To me, what’s so great about Habitat is that you’re helping an individual or a family. Owning a home is transformative in someone’s life… In certain communities, you’re helping to make a difference in a whole neighborhood. You’re bringing in a sense of pride that is infectious.”
Tommy Richardson, president of the South Converse Street Neighborhood Association, said he believes the collaboration between the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance and Habitat will stimulate growth in the community.
“We welcome this investment,” Richardson said. “We are a neighborhood that appreciates diversity. This will bring in some new faces, which could foster new ideas. It adds to the cultural fabric of the community. Something like this gives you an indication of how interested people are in the prosperity of their neighborhood. Maybe it will help inspire others who have not been a part of those efforts to join in.”
The South Converse Street neighborhood is positioned just south of downtown below East Henry Street between Hudson L. Barksdale Boulevard and Union Street.
The neighborhood was impacted by urban renewal projects during the 1970s. But developments during the past few years, including the South Converse Street Park and Mary Wright Greenway, have sparked a new sense of optimism among residents.
The South Converse Street neighborhood is positioned near the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail and is within walking distance of downtown, the Thomas E. Hannah Family YMCA, and several local schools.
The picnic shelter at South Converse Street Park was one of the sites included in the community’s public art project Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light that launched in October 2016.
The design “All Under One Roof” included the installation of programmable, colored LED lights affixed to the trusses of the shelter’s roof.
“Whether you demolish a dilapidated structure that is a magnet for drug and other illegal activity, or you build a new home that improves the look of the neighborhood, every little bit helps,” Richardson said. “It may take some time, but eventually we’ll get there.”
Lynne Shackleford, a spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity of Spartanburg, said an owner has not yet been chosen for the home.
Habitat homeowners are typically chosen through a selection process. They are then required to complete 250 hours of “sweat equity” on a Habitat work site.
Loans for Habitat homes are usually for 20 years with no interest and a low monthly payment.
Evans said the alliance has a steering committee and is actively seeking to recruit new denominations and individuals.
Habitat for Humanity of Spartanburg is in the process of building two homes on the city’s north side in partnership with the Spartanburg Housing Authority’s YouthBuild program.
For more information, visit www.habitatspartanburg.org.