Workers will soon begin demolishing the Midtown Apartments, a 1960s-era public housing complex in Rock Hill that became a trouble spot for crime and urban decay.
A group associated with the York Baptist Association tried to renovate the apartments and turn the 96-unit complex - renamed Genesis Place - into a model for inner-city ministry.
But the revitalization never happened as the group struggled to raise money for repair work. Today, only 19 tenants live in a few apartments, city officials said. Eight of the 12 buildings are vacant.
Squatters are occupying some of the vacant units to escape the cold weather, police said.
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"It continues to deteriorate," said Dawn Byers, a neighborhood inspector for the city. "It seems like every week I go by, it just looks worse."
City Council members voted 7-0 to the start of demolition and asbestos removal, which will take place over several months. As work unfolds, the city will place liens on the property to recover costs, officials said.
The site in the Hagins-Fewell neighborhood deserves a better future, said Councilwoman Susie B. Hinton.
"If we clean up that area so it's available for new development, something positive, that will be a welcomed thing," Hinton said.
The apartments were once a gathering spot for the neighborhood.
In June 1992, a June Jubilee to promote voter registration featured potato sack races and a softball game pitting the Rauch Street Deacons against the Wilhurst Street Saints. The day ended with speeches from then-Mayor Betty Jo Rhea and Horace Jones, then-president of the Rock Hill NAACP, as well as a concert by TWC and Vision.
Started with 'best intentions'
After the local Baptist group got involved in 2005, it teamed up with a community development corporation in Aiken to renovate the apartments and forge relationships with tenants.
But the group ran into competition from newer, more modern apartments approved elsewhere in Hagins-Fewell, including Innsbrook Commons on West Main Street, said Ray Koterba, the city's neighborhood services director.
"It started out with the best intentions," said Koterba.
"It finally got to the point where I had to say, 'We need to do code enforcement.' I sent our folks in and the buildings were really bad."
Demolitions crews will start with three vacant buildings, Koterba said, and gradually raze the remaining structures three at a time.
City approves deal for 'Downtown East'
Also Monday, the City Council approved an agreement with Comporium Communications for "Downtown East" - a multi-block development on the eastern end of Rock Hill's historic district.
The plan envisions a village of residences, street-level shops and offices situated around a public park with a water fountain.
Money for public upgrades - in excess of $2 million - would come from a special downtown tax district and hospitality tax revenues. Comporium would help pay for the water element, a tiered fountain with splashes shooting inward from the edges.
The park would be built on the little-used municipal parking lot at East Main Street and Elizabeth Lane.
Longer-term plans call for a 100-room hotel and civic center on land owned by Comporium and the city. The deal came after more than a year of closed-door negotiations between the two parties.