GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A massive affordable housing development project is in the works for the Nicholtown community in Greenville. Final plans were approved by the planning commission on Thursday night.

Right now, you might see some blighted and abandoned buildings sitting at the corner of Laurens and Ackley Road, but soon those sights will change and will be replaced with 112 units.

“So we have five total buildings that are currently abandoned in some state of repair, and we’re going to take those down. So we have two commercial buildings on Laurens. We have the church, the fellowship hall, and the pastor’s residence all of this will be torn down and redeveloped into the mixed-used apartment building,” said Joseph Kass, Project Manager at NHE.

“We started looking at this about a year ago and started talking to the community about the development and we’ve been taking it from there, and last night we just got our final development plan approved by planning commission,” Kass said.

“What we would like to do is build 112 apartment units and we will have some retail and commercial on the ground floor. This will be 100% affordable housing. So, it will be restricted to households at 60% of the area median income and below,” he said.

“The Alliance”, will sit at the corner of Laurens and Ackley Road in Greenville.

Kass the target income range is approximately $22,000 to $53,000 a year, depending on household size.

Yvonne Reeder has lived in this historic community, also known as a “Special Emphasis Neighborhood”, all her life, and said she’s happy about the development.

“Well I think it’s the best thing since slice bread and the reason is, our neighborhood is being gentrified and people who have worked for low wages all these years can not afford to live in decent housing,” Reeder said.

“And so when the developers came to us and said what would you like on that piece of property, we all in unison said affordable housing, because we need a place where our kids who go off to college, can come back and still remain in our neighborhood not take their talent to Georgia and other states,” Reeder said.

Reeder said she’s glad the developers worked with the community and kept them involved throughout the process.

“We were very excited that they accepted the fact that we wanted affordable housing and they agreed to it,” Reeder said. “They worked with the neighborhood, they came in, talked with our neighbors, they talked with us,” she said. “They spent time getting to know us. They even joined our neighborhood association and attend our meetings, and so it has been a great relationship building,” she said.

“We’ll have two separate buildings with a plaza between them for community events, and the plaza will have the leasing space, fitness room, and community room with a kitchenette off the plaza. So, we’re hoping that’s a gathering space for the two buildings as well as the community,” Kass said.

“We’re really excited. You know Laurens Road has been experiencing a lot of growth and there is a such thing as commercial gentrification. It’s our intention to have local businesses take up our retail and ground floor space and we’re working with some business community leaders to identify local entrepreneurs that can bring some businesses that serve underserved groups, and hit a little different audience than maybe some of the other national and commercial businesses up and down Laurens Road,” Kass said.  

Greenville officials said the Nicholtown area never really had anything of this type, and their goal is to preserve more historic neighborhoods.

“We didn’t have that kind of housing before,” said Beth Brotherton, Communications Director for the City of Greenville. “This project is tied into the Swamp Rabbit Trail Extension. There’s just so many great things about it that we’re really excited that its reached this place,” Brotherton said. 

“Affordable housing there, is important. It’s a Special Emphasis Neighborhood, which means it not only gets additional federal funding, but kind of additional attention from the City of Greenville, in terms of community centers, projects that we do. Working to develop affordable housing there,” she said.

“And frankly we would like to see a lot more like, The Alliance, that would offer majority affordable housing, that are in neighborhoods that haven’t traditionally seen new developments, that don’t displace people and something that is welcomed by the neighbors,” Brotherton said. “The thing I love about this project and that neighbors love about this project, is that it doesn’t displace anyone,” Brotherton said.

Brotherton said they are working to preserve historic neighborhoods and its cultural and physical history. She said right now, the city is taking steps to ensure regulations exist, so neighborhoods have a voice on what they want and need. Brotherton said this project fits the objective of the GVL2040 Comprehensive Plan.

Reeder said she’s glad this project is the right step in a forward direction.

“We don’t want a handout, we want a hand up. We want opportunity. Equality comes from giving everyone the same opportunity and that has not always been the American way,” Reeder said. “This project brings a lot of hope back to Nicholtown, and it’s also an example for other neighborhoods to see that this can happen in their neighborhood too, if they’re finding some developers who are willing to work with the neighborhood, to make the neighborhood better, not to make land better for other people to live in,” Reeder said.

Kass said their architect will flush out drawings, but they look to start construction this summer. Kass said this project will take about 18 months to build.

The Greenville Housing Fund, Jordan Development, SCG, and other groups are partners in the project.