For more than a century, Mountain View Baptist Church has served the historically Black neighborhood and surrounding area of Newtown, located in the Southernside neighborhood on the western edge of the city, just a stone’s throw away from what is now Unity Park.
What was once a thriving community has since fallen victim to decades-long trends of disinvestment and environmental challenges, from flooding to contamination, all while Greenville’s nearby downtown has seen rapid economic growth.
Now the church and its partners plan to reverse those trends through the newly formed Parish House Community Development Corporation, which aims to create a master plan for the neighborhood.
What does the master plans hope to address?
- Affordable housing
- Health and wellness
- Food scarcity
- Environmental cleanup and preservation
- Attracting and maintaining black residents
- Addressing the effects of gentrification
“There have been many instances during the development of downtown Main Street in particular where my conversations with our congregants ended with them saying to me that Main Street is not for us,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. Stacey Mills. “As tough as a statement as that may be to hear or embrace, the message behind it is bigger than the cost of parking or the activities on Main Street. It’s the disappearance of cultural representation that we’re trying now to address.”
From the ground up
Over the decades, the church has purchased and maintained land in the neighborhood, totaling 41 lots. This land will now be a key facet of the master plan to revitalize the area and offer more opportunities for housing, education and economic mobility.
The master plan kicked off on April 26 at the church with a charrette, a series of community input gathering sessions.
The goal is to crystalize the key issues facing the church’s congregants and the nearby residents.
Decades ago, there were two grocery stores in the area, one on Butler Road and one on North Main, both of which are now gone. Newtown residents must travel more than two miles to reach affordable food. “Understand that walking two miles both ways with bags of groceries isn’t the easiest thing to do,” Mill said.
“Newtown has gone through many issues – disinvestment, contamination, flooding, and currently its status as a food dessert,” said Byron Jefferies, architectural designer with Johnston Design Group, which is partnering with the development corporation on the creation of the master plan. “In order for these issues to be addressed and these voices to be heard, we need to create the opportunity to truly listen.”
Information gathered during the charrette, which was completed April 30, will then be used to create an early draft of the master plan in the coming weeks, Mills said.