City + Citizen News

Northside Master Plan Comes Into Focus

Monday, January 13

Northside residents make their voices heard during three days of planning

For the better part of two days in a church meeting room on the City’s historic Northside, hundreds of citizens, college students, architects, artists, and elected, business, and non-profit leaders came together to begin to chart the future of a community.


In the long arc of the City of Spartanburg’s history, what happened at the Green Street Baptist Church is unprecedented. This was no mere task force or brainstorm session. This was a come-one, come-all marathon of people asking questions, learning from one another, hashing out some very real, vexing problems, and, at the end of the two days, steering toward some very real, inspirational solutions.


And the outline of a new Northside —  a community as vibrant, dynamic and opportunity-laden as any, anywhere — has begun to come into focus.


It will be a community where, as schoolchildren at Cleveland Academy of Leadership told planners, trails, ballfields and a meandering creek and greenway are connected to their school. An area defined by its place-based architecture and public art, a community so enlivened by its diversity of citizens and gardens and shops, so full of light and life that a newcomer would doubt the tales of days when open drug dealing occurred on sidewalks and front porches here.


Of course, to get there will require a lot of work, not to mention several years. The goal of the work at Green Street Baptist Church was to begin, for the first time, to literally put pen to paper based on feedback from Northside residents. At the end of a dizzying two and a half days of expert presentations and subject-specific discussions ranging from housing to healthcare access, an initial master plan for the new Northside emerged. Though the plan contains myriad elements, five transformative projects bubbled up during the charettes that are especially worth noting:


1. Transforming the awkward Asheville Highway/Church Street/Magnolia Street intersection into a striking new gateway into the Northside and the City. The plan would require the closure of Magnolia Street between Pearl Street and Asheville Highway, and would replace it with a greenspace highlighted by public art.


2. Extending Evins Street across Church Street, creating a new artery into the heart of the Northside that would dead-end at the new Healthy Food Hub on Howard Street. The Evins Street extension would accomplish one of the major goals identified by the charette participants: helping people get across Church Street, thereby creating new and better connections between the Northside, Wofford College and Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.


3. Transforming Pearl Street into the “Main Street” of the Northside by widening it, adding bike lanes, on-street parking, wider sidewalks, street trees and other landscaping, and zoning it for multi-use development, with retail and office space on the bottom floor and residential units on the upper floors of the three- to four-story buildings to come. Pearl Street also could be extended all the way to W.O. Ezell Boulevard with the help of the S.C. Department of Transportation, thus becoming a new primary connection between the Northside and the Westside, creating a more convenient, efficient, and accessible connection to SRMC for tens of thousands of people.


4. Daylighting a creek that has been paved over and covered up for decades. The creek, known locally as the “Nasty Branch” but to be renamed Butterfly Creek, would flow roughly from just behind the Healthy Food Hub on Howard Street to about where the current Oakview Apartments sit today. It is not hard to imagine the daylighted creek and adjoining “greenway” on either side becoming not just the central feature of the new Northside, but a significant new environmental asset for the entire City.


5. Creating a multi-purpose, educational, recreational and community services campus on and adjacent to the current Cleveland Academy of Leadership location. Students at Cleveland Academy voiced their desire for their school, which currently houses kindergarten through 5th grade, to be expanded to include grades 6-8, an idea that Spartanburg School District 7 is considering. In addition to the expansion required by that move, if it were to happen, planners identified the area around Cleveland as the logical destination for the new T.K. Gregg Community Center (which City Council has already committed to building by 2017), a new Early Childhood Education Center (which has $1.5 million in funding committed through the Mary Black Foundation), and new ballfields. 


You can watch the final presentation from this past week's Northside workshop series in the video below.