The City of Greenville Community Development Department has started the next phase of development on its West Greenville 45-Block Revitalization Program in downtown Greenville, North Carolina. The City has described the $13.8 million project as an effort “to remove unsafe and unsightly structures, provide street and utility improvements, increase affordable home ownership, and promote redevelopment and new construction.” The Housing Division is currently making plans to build a number of new homes leveraging a combination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME funds and local bonds. The 20-year project represents the City’s first new construction infill effort and includes approximately 250 parcels that may require some type of assistance.

This phase of the project includes construction on a number of scattered site properties in a historic neighborhood built in the 1930s. The project neighborhood was originally home to mostly African American farmers and tobacco warehouse employees. Once known as the “Queen City on the Tar,” Greenville served as the largest tobacco processing center for flue-cured tobacco in North Carolina. With the Great Depression and advancement of new agricultural technologies, many prosperous neighborhoods in West Greenville fell into decline and became plagued with poverty, unemployment and crime, and a low level of educational achievement. Today, with growing health care and education industries, Greenville has undertaken this large-scale initiative to revitalize its historic neighborhoods and better serve its community members.

After a structural evaluation of the properties of interest in this phase, many of the homes were found to be unsalvageable and torn down, but will be replaced with six historically sensitive designs by TightLines. The custom home plans are currently in the final design stage and will soon be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for approval.

The project has not come without its set of challenges. According to City of Greenville Planner Karen Gilkey, many acquired lots were irregular in size and shape and had to be combined and rerecorded to create buildable lots suitable for new housing. In many cases, houses were sitting on property lines. In others, multiple houses were found to be located on the same parcel. The average selling price of a new home that is part of this project is approximately $87,000, which is $40,000 less than comparable construction in surrounding neighborhoods. One project goal is to increase the current 20% owner-occupied rate in the community to 51% over the life of the project and special consideration is being given to the high percentage of elderly living in the community. Gilkey describes the project as an important one not only due to its economic and affordable housing benefits, but also its positive impact on the community-at-large. She explained, “This project will not only increase property values in the area, but also improve the spirit of the people.”

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