COLUMBIA — Spartanburg’s Northside Initiative received the inaugural OneSouthCarolina Partners in Progress Award from Furman University’s Riley Institute.
The award was presented to initiative leaders by Dick Riley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, during the first Building OneSouthCarolina forum in Columbia on May 10. The award was given for achievements that advance social and economic progress in South Carolina.
“We have a very large advisory committee that’s made up of public servants, people in the media, people in education, people in health care, and they honed in on the Northside Initiative as being by far the best initiative of its kind in the state,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute. “We investigated it, and they were absolutely right.”
The initiative is an ongoing neighborhood revitalization effort to implement economic prosperity, increase quality affordable housing, improve access to healthy food and promote positive health outcomes on the north side of Spartanburg. The Northside Development Group, Northside Voyagers, Northside residents and the City of Spartanburg came together more than 10 years ago to launch the initiative.
A high rate of unemployment, crime and declining property values grew even larger scale in area during the 2008 financial crisis, prompting initiative leaders to band together.
“I think the Northside just represents a group of people getting together and trying to build a better model for a world we hope we can bring home,” said Bill Barnet, board chair of the Northside Development Group and mayor of Spartanburg in the early 2000s.
Community leaders and residents continue to invest in the area with new development, programming and resources. One of the newer developments is the Dr. T.K. Gregg Community Center, a facility with two pools, meeting spaces and a fitness room that opened in 2020. The Franklin School Early Learning Center opened in 2019 for those six weeks to four years old.
The Northside neighborhood is also home to two distinct developments on the corner of Howard and College Street called Northside Station. One is a mixed-income housing development and the other is a mixed-use commercial development.
“It’s definitely an honor for the Riley Institute to have us as their inaugural winner of this award,” said Michael Williamson, CEO of the Northside Development Group. “There’s a lot of work still left to do, but it is nice to have recognition of all the partnerships and everyone that’s come together to make it happen.”
Williamson said the Northside Development Group is planning to turn the abandoned Aden Warehouses into 96,000-square-feet of office and retail space. The site will be a place for entrepreneurs who want to open up small businesses. Williamson said he plans to have a tenant that will do job training and employment services. The space might also have a brewery and a pet hotel.
There are currently 45 homes planned or under construction in the area, according to Williamson.
“We’ve got a request for proposals out right now for some vacant land, just to see if we can find a developer that wants to work with the community to develop that,” he said.