Radical revitalization

Five years ago, in the depths of the recession, Spartanburg leaders began raising funds for a radical revitalization plan.

So began the Northside Initiative, an ambitious vision to transform a 400-acre crime-ridden food desert into a vibrant, sustainable, opportunity-rich swath of Spartanburg.

Once a vibrant population hub, the area slipped into a crime-ridden pattern of decline.

The catalyst was a new branch location for the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, which started classes in 2011 on the old Spartan Mill site and represented a welcome shot of energy and investment Spartanburg leaders say they couldn’t pass up. Five years of redevelopments later – including a food hub with job training, housing builds for a model block on Brawley Street and near-completion for a recreation center – violent crime has fallen 81 percent since 2011, according to leaders.

“Part of this transformation is that the Northside is safe, that crime is reducing as a result of what we’re dong here,” says Tammie Hoy Hawkins, president of Northside Development Corp., which spearheaded the project along with the City of Spartanburg and the Spartanburg Housing Authority. “The neighborhood did come upon hard times with the mill closure and then the recession, but the public private partnerships that have come together are really transforming that.”

The Northside Initiative has led to Harvest Park, which is home to the Hub City Farmer’s Market, The Butterfly Foundation, the Monarch Café & Fresh Food Store and an urban garden. Other projects underway include the state-of-the-art T.K. Gregg Recreation Center funded by a $6 million city commitment; an early childhood education center; the teardown and redevelopment of the decaying Oakview Apartments; and the second phase of the Brawley Street Model Block. Hoy Hawkins is in the process of relocating and providing case management for Oakview residents, and hopes to finish the two- and three-bedroom market rate and affordable model block by the end of the year.