Residents hope Florence redevelopment will create growth in the neighborhood

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – On Monday, the city of Florence held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first neighborhood redevelopment project.

The city purchased vacant lots from property owners and construction on seven new homes called Vista Place will begin soon.

City mayor Stephen Wukela says the city selected this area near North Vista Elementary to help the neighborhood develop. The mayor says investors have not been investing in north, east and west Florence, but city leaders have stepped in and invested about $10 million to kick start growth in the areas.

“The city is actually getting in there and  acting as a developer. Mitigating the costs to contractors and banks. To create some investment. Now the community will have to buy into that, of course because these are houses that are going to be for sale. We have to be able to have purchasers that are willing to live on vista street,” said Mayor Stephen Wukela.

Though not everyone is equally excited for the developments. People in North Florence say they are worried the changes in the neighborhood may impact the seniors in the area.

Retired teacher and President of the Liberty Street Neighborhood Watch Maretha Downs was born and raised in north Florence and is happy with the Vista Place project, but she says many people come to her with concerns about the development.

“Finally in the area we are getting updated and affordable housing. The city says that these houses will be affordable. So, I’m hoping the city sticks to their word,” said Downs.

She says her only concern is how the new homes will impact senior citizens in the area. Downs says 85 percent of neighborhood are seniors that stayed in the area after their children moved away.

“He’s 85, next to him is a 78-year old-man, next to him is a 81-year-old man, you understand? We are just senior citizens,” said Downs.

She anticipates the property value of homes in the area will go up, but her biggest worry are possible changes to current homes to match the new homes.

“To bring it up to what they want the neighborhood to look like, you know. They may want everyone to have vinyl siding. What if we don’t have the finances for vinyl siding,” said Downs.

Mayor Wukela says projects like this are often met with a fair amount of suspicion, but the city plans to help current homeowners.

“You don’t want to lose those people. You want to maintain the fabric of the neighborhood. But at the same time you improve the fabric around them. Improve their values and bring the neighborhood up as a whole,” Wukela said.

Downs has been working closely with the city and hopes leaders will help seniors in the area upgrade their homes so they do not have to move.

“I’m hoping that with the new addition of ‘Vista Place’ that the surrounding area will build up and thrive,” said Downs. “If we can build up the community especially with young adults. We can bring more children to the community.”

The homes will cost around $140,000 after the city will provides down payment and closing cost assistance, for eligible applicants.

Residents hope Florence redevelopment will create growth in the neighborhood

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