Redevelopment projects accelerate in Spartanburg’s Northside

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After years of planning, a spate of community-development projects is coming to life this fall in Spartanburg’s Northside neighborhood.

Positioned along a half-mile stretch of Howard Street, the projects carry a combined price tag of $56 million and aim to ensure that residents of the historically underserved area have greater access to cradle-to-career education, affordable housing, health care, and recreation.

Challenged over the years by limited resources and blight, Northside’s poverty rate hovers around 50 percent. Nearly 90 percent of its 1,800 residents are black.

But tangible signs of progress are accelerating.

This fall’s burst of activity comes as Northside Development Group, the nonprofit that oversees the neighborhood’s 400-acre master plan, continues to coordinate a variety of revitalization projects full-bore. The organization is chaired by former Spartanburg mayor Bill Barnet.

Tammie Hoy Hawkins, the nonprofit’s project manager, works with public, private, and philanthropic partners who began committing time and resources to the neighborhood after Spartan International shuttered its textile mill in 2001. At the height of the mill’s operations, 5,000 people lived in the area.

As the population declined, the question became “how do you support existing
residents so they’re successful and they stay in the neighborhood?” Hawkins
said.

When Virginia-based Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine announced in 2008 that it would open a campus on the former mill site, interest in transforming the neighborhood spiked. The master plan for renewal was adopted in 2014.

“We want people to move to the Northside,” said Tony Thomas, a barber and president of the Northside Voyagers, a group of residents who serve as a sounding board for all proposals affecting the neighborhood. “And we want a community that supports that, with the schools, the recreation, the job opportunities, job training, homeownership opportunities.”

The work underway this fall at multiple sites along Howard Street will help achieve those objectives, Thomas said.

The Franklin School

Across from the nonprofit’s offices, landscape work is wrapping up at the site of The Franklin School, scheduled to open Jan. 9. The full-day, full-year early-learning center will serve at least 160 children ages 6 weeks through 5 years and employ a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

The mixed-income learning center will enroll both Head Start and private-pay students, with children from Northside given priority.

The school is being funded by philanthropic contributions and $10 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocations, said Tammy Propst, operating officer at The Innovate Fund, a Greenville-based community-development catalyst that supports projects in areas deemed “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Propst calls the Northside one of the state’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to make a bigger impact in smaller geographic areas,” she said.

Mixed-Use Development

At the corner of Howard and College streets, site work is beginning on the first of two phases of mixed-use development.

With a price tag of $14.5 million, Phase I will consist of three buildings and encompass 20 units of mixed-income apartments; seven additional units of housing for Wofford College students pursuing neighborhood-based studies; new offices for the Neighborhood Development Group; a teaching clinic for VCOM that will serve the community; and space for AccessHealth, a nonprofit affiliated with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System that will provide medical services to the uninsured and underinsured.

“Over 45 percent of our residents were going to the emergency room for all of their services” but AccessHealth will now be able to deliver primary care services in the heart of the neighborhood, Hawkins said.

Phase I is being funded through New Markets Tax Credits and debt financing provided by Low-Income Investment Fund, a California group; federal HUD funding in partnership with the city of Spartanburg; the Neighborhood Development Group; and Wofford College.

Completion of Phase I is scheduled for January 2020.

Phase II, across the street, is a $16 million project consisting of 90 units of mixed-income multifamily housing. Work will begin during the first quarter of 2019 and conclude 12 months later.

The project team includes Spartanburg Housing Partners, the city of Spartanburg, Spartanburg Housing Authority, and the Neighborhood Development Group. Funding comes from HUD, the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority, Spartanburg Housing Authority, and $3 million raised by Northside Development.

Prospective tenants for both phases of housing include VCOM students now living throughout Spartanburg, low- and moderate-income workers employed in service industries, and residents who left the neighborhood and who are now looking to return, Hawkins said.

Nearby, at College and Brawley streets, additional housing will come on the market by mid-December in the form of seven stand-alone properties built by Homes of Hope, a Greenville-based developer. Rents for families who fall within 50 percent to 120 percent of area median income range from $595 to $950, Hawkins said.

The seven models bring to 21 the number of Homes of Hope units in the Northside.

T.K. Gregg Community Center

Site-grading for the T.K. Gregg Community Center, a $16 million city-led project, is scheduled to get underway this fall at Howard and Preston streets, said city spokesperson Christopher George.

“Between Franklin School and T.K. Gregg, it’s really going to have an important impact on the community,” said Liberty Canzater, who oversees Monarch Café, which opened on Howard Street in 2014 alongside an urban farm and has seen business grow steadily. “So hearing that Howard Street now is going to be creating all this activity … people are going to be more intrigued to see what all this buzz is about.”

The new project, designed with considerable community input, will feature two indoor swimming pools, a gymnasium, community rooms, a multipurpose room, and other amenities.

“The objective for the Voyagers is to have an inclusive community that provides the amenities and the support systems that will provide for people wanting to come here and raise their families,” Thomas said. “We have a great team of people to help us do that.”

Added Hawkins, “What we’re trying to do is to be a model for other communities.”

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