|Greenville County Square Present Day|
There is a $1 billion-dollar redevelopment happening in downtown Greenville SC. It will take the area known as County Square and transform it into a high-end mixed development. The county and their Atlanta-based development partner are working on getting the city’s blessing on the project. However, the mayor of Greenville SC (Knox White) has put his foot down and said that “affordable housing is non-negotiable.”
The developer for the project Phil Mays has said that the County is working to bring some type of lower-cost housing to the County Square redevelopment. County Administrator Joe Kernell, who is also the chief architect on the transformation said he is working with the city on a possible solution for affordable housing. It is possible that the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority could leverage federal and local money to boost affordable housing opportunities in the county.
Although there are no homes currently on the 37-acre County Square property, it is located adjacent to the Haynie-Sirrine neighborhood which is one of the oldest African American communities in Greenville SC. This area is undergoing gentrification or the process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses.
The U.S. Census estimates show that Greenville SC may be losing its historic diversity with the population shift in the city. But mayor White says this is an opportunity to build in some good quality affordable housing where the existing public health and DMV buildings now stand. These would be torn down and the new housing would provide a buffer between the existing neighborhood and the taller professional buildings.
Knowing that affordable housing was an issue, the city of Greenville SC set aside funds to create an affordable housing fund to help address it. It recently set aside nine acres near Unity Park for future affordable housing construction. But many Greenville SC natives are finding it just two expensive to live in the city and are therefore seeking more affordable homes outside of Greenville SC.
Checking Zillow for homes for rent in Greenville SC, I got results of about 5 available. All too expensive for median-income households. Greenville SC has a median income of $38,649 per Trulia and the median rent per month is $1,300. If you take 30 percent of their income and divide by 12 for monthly rent it is only $966. None of the two-bedroom homes on Trulia were in that price range.
Agreements between city officials over the project are still being hammered out. More than 100 of the 120 or thereabouts staff concerns have been worked out with compromises noted on the 429-page rezoning application.
By asking for the rezoning, the buildings would be built with greenspace included. If they build under the current zoning, they don’t have to put in the greenspace. So, there is a teetering of values happening as well as finding a way to include affordable housing. However, this turns out, the very smart and very independent people on the planning commission will be the final judge.
The bigger issue may be that Greenville SC is an old city with a huge growth potential right now. With such a small footprint currently in their downtown space can they really ignore the upcoming need to expand the downtown area into the existing neighborhoods next door. If the city keeps growing and redeveloping with new opportunities, I see an instance where the city begins buying out sections of land close to the downtown area and replacing it with upscale buildings etc. and growing their way to a mini metropolis. How do you preserve history while also preparing for the future?
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