Proposed townhome development concerns neighbors in West Greenville

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Many low-income neighborhoods are continuing to feel the impact of growth in Greenville.

On North Leach Street in West Greenville, neighbors are facing a familiar battle in an area where development often means displacement. 

“People with clipboards in their hands, getting out of the cars, walking around people’s houses who live there,” said Fr. Patrick Tuttle, Ofm. of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in West Greenville. 

Last Thursday, Fr. Tuttle was among community members who gathered for a public meeting about a proposed townhome development on the street. 

The nine-unit development is slated to go on the nearly acre property owned by Robert Jenkins, Sr., a retired judge in Greenville County.

“This is a good man who’s done good and noble things all his life,” Tuttle said. “This latest decision of his is not consistent with our values.”

Jenkins told 7News he wishes to subdivide the property. He says the house that’s currently on the property is vacant and was recently vandalized. He says he hopes the new development makes the community safer. 

Jenkins says the project is in the concept phase, and he does not have a lot of specifics. He doesn’t know how much he will sell the townhomes for but says it will be market rate. Townhomes nearby, in comparison, are being listed around half a million dollars.

Tuttle believes the Leach Street area is becoming so desirable because Mayor Knox White announced plans for the new Unity Park. He would like to see the city sequester land faster, so several non-profits can continue building affordable homes in the neighborhoods close to downtown. He says many people in the “working-poor” population need to live in those neighborhoods to be close to many of their hospitality jobs downtown. 

Tuttle says if townhomes are built, that eliminates the option. 

“Once this land is transferred to three-story, over half a million dollar townhomes, it never goes back to that possibility,” Tuttle said. “It always remains that high end place…So the possibility of them living here is being displaced.”

Jenkins says displacement is not part of his plan. However, neighbors living next door to and nearby the development say they’re gearing up to have to move.    

“We’re not going to be able to afford it, so it’s not for us,” Melvin Simpson, who lives in West Greenville, said. 

Tuttle says he’s really concerned about Governor McMaster’s newly declared Opportunity ZonesThe zones are part of a community development program where tax incentives are given to developers and investors, so they can revitalize impoverished communities. 

“Making this a very lucrative place to build,” Tuttle said of the West Greenville neighborhood. 

Opportunity Zones do not dictate affordable housing development.

It’s part of the reason why neighbors are torn about the townhome project. They want to see their neighborhood restored, but they want everyone to be able to enjoy the new developments.

“It might be good, but then again, you do need to fix homes up for the poor people, too you know,” Simpson said.

Jenkins says he will be presenting his plan in front of the city’s Planning Commission Board on August 16th at 3 p.m.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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