Council decides fate of derelict Greenwood Mill Village building
December 18, 2018
By ADAM BENSON
A torn Greenwood City Council on Monday decided the fate of a run-down former recreation center on Jackson Avenue — saying its unique historic features weren’t enough to outweigh the costs related to saving it.
On a 5-2 vote, the council authorized City Manager Julie Wilkie to use $40,000 as a match to unlock nearly $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the demolition of a James C. Self-constructed building at 314 Jackson Ave.
“We’ve all been by there and seen it. It’s falling in. I cut the grass there in college, so I know the historical significance of it but without a plan, we’ve got to do something. Because right now it’s a blight,” Mayor Brandon Smith said.
In October, the state Department of History and Archives lodged a protest against the city’s plans to use government funds for the building’s destruction, arguing that it held intrinsic value that needed to be protected.
The city’s match includes the cost of land acquisition and retention of a consultant that produced a historic survey of the Greenwood Mill Village neighborhood. A marker noting the building’s presence is also planned as part of an agreement with the agency that’s nearly finalized, Wilkie said.
Josh Skinner of the City/County Planning Department offered a defense of saving the structure, but acknowledged cleanup and renovation costs would be daunting.
“I think it deserves someone to stand up and say, ‘This is a great building,’” Skinner said.
Textile magnate and philanthropist James C. Self oversaw the building’s construction in the early 20th century, offering workers in the mill community a place to fellowship.
With its transom windows, alabaster pillars and brick exterior, Self wanted the facility to reflect the area’s growing prosperity and improve quality of life for its residents, Skinner said.
“He could have built a regular, wood-sided meeting hall. Instead, he built a really architecturally significant building,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to anybody that’s in favor of keeping it yet, but I really think it’s a great building and could an anchor to that area and a legacy project for people involved.”
Wilkie said one of the final acts of former City Manager Charlie Barrineau was to canvass nearby property owners — 80 of whom signed a petition in favor of razing the building.
Councilmembers said accepting the state money to remove it was not their preferred option, but necessary given the center’s condition.
“We can’t find a developer to even become interested in the mill site, so finding a developer wanting to come in and invest in that type of building?” Councilwoman Betty Boles said.
Councilwoman Niki Hutto — who voted against demolition along with Ronnie Ables — said she understood the council’s motivation to do so.
“I live in an old house, I love the charm and historic value of all these properties. They’re unique, especially the ones in Greenwood, because there are few mill villages ever done to the quality and caliber of what has been done here,” she said. “If we had the money and we could find the money, I’m all for keeping and preserving the building, but I don’t know about if it’s in the best interest of the city economically.”