FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The City of Florence says it needs to destroy 21 abandoned properties in different neighborhoods to improve its community.
Florence City Council met Monday and approved the first reading of an ordinance that would rezone the 21 homes. The city developed the neighborhood revitalization overlay district last year, and council members hope to revitalize struggling neighborhoods in north, northwest and east Florence.
“This was a beautiful neighborhood,” says long-time Florence resident Stephen Cooper. “The neighborhood was strong.”
Cooper has lived in east Florence for more than 50 years, and says he can remember when the neighborhood was diverse and successful. But, as people moved away, many homes were left abandoned.
“Nobody living in them. Nobody keeping them up,” Cooper says shaking his head. “They are just like people, with nobody there to take care of them they started to die. And the neighborhood is going right down with the houses.”
City council hopes rezoning the 21 home, will make it easier to demolish the properties and rebuild. The goal is to construct new homes on the forgotten lots – homes that would cost roughly $180,000.
Council member Pat Gibson-Hye Moore says the city and the east Florence community organization have been working on neighborhood revitalization for more than seven years, and now it’s time to see action toward their long sought-after plan.
“I want the community to realize it’s happening when they see all of these signs. All of the public hearing signs means our neighborhoods are about to flourish and grow again,” predicts Moore.
Leaders plan to spend $3 million from the general fund to cover the costs of the demolitions and accrual of the property. Florence City Manager Drew Griffin says the city set aside the money about five years ago for the revitalization effort.
Griffin says the city also received about $700,000 in grant money. The City of Florence bought the 21 vacant or abandoned homes over the last year.
“The good part about it is the city will help anyone who wants to buy with the closing costs and down payments,” explains Moore.
Cooper says he is happy the city is working with the community to improve the neighborhoods.
“I’ve been here since the 50s. I would love to see our neighborhoods back strong like it was,” says Cooper. “Especially if the houses are affordable for the people in the neighborhood. It would be beautiful to see the neighborhood come back and come back strong.”
A Planning Commission meeting will discuss the 21 parcels of land at the city center Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.
One of the first projects for the neighborhood redevelopment project will begin at the end of March. The Vista Place development project will break ground March 17. Seven new homes will be built across from the North Vista Elementary School.