Kitson Mill clean-up work prelude for bigger things?
July 7, 2018
Just a few feet from Pam Kelly’s front door, a backhoe is digging into soft dirt along the perimeter of Greenwood’s Kitson Mill property.
Large pipes are stacked nearby the work zone and in just a few weeks, 500 truckloads worth of topsoil will be layered across the six-acre site.
It’s a lot activity in this quiet neighborhood, but Kelly welcomes the brief disruption.
“They can come in 24/7 if it was up to me, just as long as something gets done over there,” Kelly said. “That’s the main thing, just having progress. I’m ready for progress.”
It’s a construction project, yes, but also something much more: the foundation for what officials see as a renaissance to a core piece of the city’s identity.
Progress, in other words, for property that housed a textile mill from 1890 through 2008.
“Our history is based on the mills, and when you look at the mill village that surrounds this area, it’s full of people, some that have been here forever, young people, new couples. It’s really a community in a true sense that doesn’t exist in a lot of places anymore, and we want to help them increase their property values, we want to do everything we can to provide them with something nice to build on,” Greenwood Finance Director Steffanie Dorn said. “It has so much potential if we just get the right person to look at it and see the vision we see.”
City Manager Charlie Barrineau said remediating the mill site is also borne out of a mandate by Greenwood’s council to address areas outside of the Uptown.
“Council really has directed us to branch out. The west side what we’ve done at Mineral Court, Kitson, the work we’re beginning to do on the Foundry site. We’ve begun to take the successes we’ve had Uptown and try to branch those out,” he said. “The City Council holds the cards for the future of this property.”
The $515,000 investment to clean up Kitson Mill is the latest round of money being poured into the site. Funds are split between federal, state and local dollars: $200,000 from an Environmental Protection Agency grant, a $275,000 allocation from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s revolving loan fund and $40,000 from local Community Development Block Grant dollars.
The loan, which carries a 1 percent interest rate over 10 years, will be paid back using $92,293 of Sunday alcohol permit revenues for storm water drainage repairs, with the remainder coming from the city’s general fund.
Officials said up to $82,500 of the loan may be forgiven. In February, a North Carolina-based planner contracted to conduct a Kitson Mill market study found reason for the city to be optimistic about the future.
“I really encourage you to think about the potential of this site as a jobs creator, a small business incubator and also the opportunity at having some recreational potential to not only provide for the needs of the residents here in Greenwood County, but be a draw for others to come and partake there,” Jason Epley, president of Charlotte-based Benchmark Planning, told stakeholders during an unveiling of the study. “Getting there and making these things happen will take a lot of hard work.”
Barrineau said the Kitson Mill property isn’t zoned for single-family residential, but all other options can be explored.
“What the public doesn’t appreciate and understand is the intricate detail of the state and federal funding and how it comes and goes,” he said. “It is a big puzzle and sometimes the timing does not go exactly as we want it to, but as long as we have a plan for the future, as things come along we can add pieces to that puzzle.”
Dorn encouraged nearby residents and others with an interest in seeing the former mill site thrive to take lessons learned from decades worth of improvements to the city’s thriving Uptown district.
“I think back to my early days in the city when all the work was happening Uptown, and I wasn’t a visionary. I couldn’t see it, but look at Uptown now, and that’s what made me a believer in what we can do if we just all pull together, and that’s what we’ve done over here,” she said. “It’ll happen.”