Gentrification, Thy Name is Village of West Greenville

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A $9 bottle of spinach and kale juice, juxtaposed against a place where local and long-time residents can finally purchase freshly picked vegetables.

A bourbon liver mousse to a loaf, perched down the street from a place selling bread to those who live in the area.

These are changes many long term inhabitants living in or near the Village of West Greenville are noticing as they see the business landscape rapidly changing around them.

When a few brave artists made the move to the Pendleton Street area, led by Diane Kilgore Condon, they changed the landscape and began the revitalization of a historic area in need of transformation.  The result of her hard work, the ArtBomb, proved to Greenville that there is a way for progress and community to cohabitate peacefully.

Fast forward to 2017 when the so-called “soul” of the West Village is slowly being sold to landlords wishing to cash in and draw commercial visitors. Not all change is bad: there is a locally run eatery now, a popular coffee spot, and rumors of more shopping, food and beverage joints to populate the area. But at what cost to the history and integrity the community has come to embrace throughout the not-so-distant past?  The same people frequenting the newly remodeled Spinx station for a breakfast sandwich would also be interested in a pork belly biscuit if it was within their price range.

Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, has sponsored a bill that would address the housing issue by allowing municipalities and counties to require a percentage of affordable housing to be sold or rented within a multifamily structure or single-family development.   Kudos to Greenville City Council for passing a resolution supporting this initiative.  We hope that the local political candidates running for office will also make known their positions on this important issue.

What if businesses in the West Village, an area that the Greenville Journal referred to as “one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods but one that is undergoing a renaissance” went even further by offering affordable menu pricing or product discounts for the neighborhood residents?  Could a struggling auto repair shop expand into additional underserved areas if a neighborhood marketing company simply donated the necessary coaching and strategy that is so readily available to business people and residents in other areas?  Those are tough questions to ask, but it’s hard to argue with the potential benefits that come with the answers.

Organizations like Pendleton Place and the Greenville Housing Authority provide necessary services to underserved residents surrounding the West Village, as do a number of service and repair businesses sitting on the outskirts of town. A local pawn shop allows residents to part with their belongings, oftentimes in order to take care of other financial obligations.  When the Mutual Home Store closed, leaving an empty building in a coveted location, local residents, artists and visitors began to ask themselves, “What comes next?” Both in good ways and not.

The most unlikely tenant will be another similar in the philosophy to the Village Wrench, which uses bicycles to profoundly impact the local community.  Community references the people who choose to live in the area rather than work or visit during daylight hours.  Choose: they have no other option than to live in many of the old mill houses that date back to the community’s incarnation.

So what comes next for The Village?  An Anthropologie?

Are there plans in the works to displace a few compliant residents so that a much needed parking area can be built?  Is Greenville’s next great wine bar coming to the area so that building owners can begin creating another investment bubble like the one occurring downtown?  Or is the growth going to stay true to the deeply rooted community, uniting those who have invested themselves, their families, and their livelihoods in the area?

As Spartanburg’s growth begins taking a sharper trajectory upward , we hope that they are paying attention also.  The Greenville North Main St. area has already begun taking positions on new small businesses cropping up and expansion projects by established nonprofits.

Gentrification: involves reviving, renovating, making what was once old into something new. Absorbing deteriorated neighborhoods by means of an influx of more affluent residents, resulting in increased property values. One side effect often not discussed publicly, amid the excitement over revitalization, is the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses.  In other words, gentrification is a boon for an investor and a bane for the established community.

Maybe what the West Village needs is another influx of emerging artists who can gently impact the area through assimilation.  Mac Arnold’s fantastic meat-and-three menu and live entertainment venue already provide a much needed community gathering spot.  Perhaps there is room for a Deal Mart, which can move in and provide inexpensive food items to a few hungry families within walking distance of their homes.  Does the Village need more small plates and craft beers to nourish a few fleeting visitors?

At The CLUTCH, we welcome conversations in our community of collaborators and readers. We want to know your thoughts. Shoot us an email: info@upstateclutch.com and let your voice be heard. As our city continues to grow, so should our conversations.

Staff
These articles are provided by our Upstate community and processed by our editorial team. The purpose is to notify our readers of timely information about people, places, events and announcements.
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