Washington West, a planned mixed-use and affordable housing development on West Washington Street near the train station, could become a model for affordable housing developments on other city-owned property.
The development on eight-tenths of an acre the city purchased in the early 2000s has been in the works for two years and does not rely on federal funding, said Greenville community development administrator Ginny Stroud and developers Trey Cole and Pat Dilger.
Washington West will have 16 residential units — one market rate and the rest either affordable or workforce housing — as well as market-rate and affordable office space.
“It’s similar to McBee Station but on a smaller scale,” Cole told Greenville City Council members during a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting. “I wanted it to be more than just housing.”
Washington West is a unique development because it includes affordable housing and office space with access to multiple modes of transportation with no reliance on federal funding.
“From day one, we wanted affordable housing and have been trying to figure out a way to do it,” Cole said. “I never would have thought it’d be two years.”
He used what he called “reverse inclusionary zoning” to determine how much market-rate housing would be needed to make the affordable and workplace housing work financially. Inclusionary zoning, which is illegal in South Carolina, requires a certain percentage of new construction be affordable to low- and moderate-income households.
Interim City Manager Nancy Whitworth credited Cole and Dilger for sticking it out.
“Most people would have left long ago,” she said.
Councilwoman Lillian Brock Flemming said the project illustrates the need for the city to reduce barriers for affordable projects. “The infrastructure cost almost prohibits affordable housing on some pieces of land,” she said. “We’ve got to find a better way, something that makes it a little easier.”
A 2016 study identified a shortage of more than 2,500 affordable housing units in the city limits. A study by the same company last year found a shortage of more than 9,000 affordable housing units in the county.
Cole said site work costs such as parking, sprinklers, and sewer and water impact fees are the same for affordable or market-rate construction. The project was redesigned six times. Cole said he had to consider square footage costs for the project as a whole instead of individual parts to make the numbers work. He said the project is losing $20,000 on one-bedroom units.
“All market-rate helps subsidize the affordable,” he said.
The affordable office space would be used by neighborhood businesses just getting off the ground, Cole said.
The city would sell the land and use the proceeds for road improvements on Antley Street, which runs behind the site, and to make down payments on the affordable and workforce housing units, Stroud said. Details of the deal will be included in a development agreement City Council members would have to approve.
Cole said further design work is necessary for the project and he had no construction start date yet.