First look at Greenville’s Imperial site development sparks concerns

Greenville, N.C. (WNCT) – The Greenville City Council’s annual planning retreat kicked off Friday and city leaders got their first look at the market analysis for potential plans to redevelop the Imperial Mill. The plan comes with concerns from some on the council of how it will affect those who already live in the area.

The city has joined forces with UNC’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI) to attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and development expertise. Project Manager, Jordan Jones is overseeing the project. He says, “the market analysis shows there’s a strong demand for market rate apartments in uptown in particular the imperial site, somewhere between 2-400 units, could be absorbed in the next 5 years and about 40-40 thousand square feet of retail and 80-100 square feet of office space.”

While the findings fit in line with other projects in the area, Mayor Pro-tem Kandi Smith is concerned that the plans could lead to gentrification and says the move started 20 years ago, with the planning of the 10th street connector and the most recent development of Dickinson Avenue and the town commons. “I’m concerned about what they’re promoting for that site, I don’t want to see student housing on that site. Do you know how much student housing we have in Greenville,” she said. Smith added; she wants to see more businesses that accent the area and supports the people who live there. Her suggestion is to bring grocery stores and more jobs.

Jones explained that gentrification is always a big issue in urban developments that take place. He says a major part of the planning and development of the area is making sure the displacements efforts are controlled and they’re being proactive about the change, so there are investments to make that residents and retailers are able to stay in their existing places.

DFI’s role in the city’s plans is to help the city identify a development partner(s) to develop the Imperial Mill site that aligns with the project’s guiding public interests. According to the Jones, the market analysis assumes a “best case scenario” based on historical development trends across Greenville and Pitt County.

The project manager and his team still have a lot of work to do, their next steps will include meeting with community members to get additional feedback and input on potential mix of uses. They will present site plan options and a potential public private partnership structure in May and hope to have a developer in place by September.

The City Council’s retreat continues on Saturday, where city leaders will dive into the discussions on the city’s budget for fiscal year 2017-18, long term capital debt planning and a look at “big ideas” for the redevelopment several Town Common projects. Other items up for discussion include the possibility of a summer league baseball team that’s part of the Coastal Plain League and a new sports  complex.

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