As spring approaches in the coming months, residents in Greenwood will see grassy areas replacing many homes in the downtown area along Pleasant Creek.
In the past year, Greenwood has approved spending about $2 million to purchase 19 acres of land throughout the city and tear down buildings to create green space or prepare blighted properties for new development.
The city spent more than $1 million to buy and tear down a dilapidated former strip mall on Madison Avenue with plans to either redevelop the site or leave it as green space. A four-acre wooded property along Main Street was purchased to be preserved as an extension of West Side Park. And more than a dozen properties in the flood zone along creeks in Greenwood have been purchased, with the goal of removing buildings that are likely to get damaged in future floods and to provide additional land for parks and trails.
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In each instance, the goal has been either to set aside the land for future park use or find a way to rehabilitate a blighted property so that it can be redeveloped and again be generating tax revenue for the city, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.
“We’re buying these up big picture to help the city out economically and ecologically,” he said.
The purchases serve a variety of purposes, such as clearing blighted areas for development along Madison Avenue, preserving land for future parks on Main Street and removing buildings from flood-prone area in the downtown area where they are likely to be damaged, Myers said.
In the past year, the city has approved about $2 million to purchase 16 properties, and in many cases, to tear down the current buildings or homes on them. Money for the work has come from a variety of sources, including tax dollars, development fees and federal grants.
In Greenwood, undeveloped land that is usable as park space is becoming an increasingly rare find, which means officials want to take advantage of whatever opportunities come up to buy land for future parks, parks and recreation director Rob Taggart said.
This fall, the parks board purchased a four-acre property near West Side park on south side of Main Street for $90,000. The area, which is heavily wooded, could be used for trails and mountain biking. The parks department has hired a consultant to create plans for the park and is looking for a local mountain biking group to get feedback from, Taggart said.
What makes the project more complicated is a proposal to have a trail go alongside Pleasant Run Creek which runs under a Main Street bridge. The trail would connect the new park to the West Side Park parking lot, Taggart said.
Another key area where the parks department wants to add land is in the southeast section of the city, Taggart said. The parks department has looked at purchasing a 40-acre property east of U.S. 31 between Stop 18 and Worthsville Roads, and a developer working to purchase the land and build a new neighborhood has offered to set aside about 15 acres for a public park in exchange for getting the land rezoned.
While most new park land has come from purchasing still undeveloped properties, in 2016, the city received a nearly $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 percent of the cost of purchasing and demolishing 13 homes in flood prone areas along Pleasant Run Creek and Pleasant Creek, which can then be used for trails and parks.
Because the process of selling a home is voluntary, and homeowners were allowed to back out after seeing the offer they received based on the appraisals, only eight of the original 13 properties will be bought, Greenwood Stormwater Department Director Chris Jones said.
When the purchases and demolition of those eight homes are all finalized, the stormwater department will likely have spent about $800,000, and will be in line for a $600,000 reimbursement. The remaining federal grant will go unspent, as it was tied to the 13 specific properties, Jones said.
Once the city finalizes the purchases and demolition is complete, it will pursue a second federal grant to purchase more properties downtown along Pleasant Creek. The city sent letters to 32 property owners in the area, with a dozen already saying they would be willing to sell if another grant was approved, Jones said.
In addition to the homes purchased with the grant, the city has approved spending an additional $400,000 to purchase and demolish another six homes in the floodway. The result is that by the end of this spring, a large portion of the land bordered by Pleasant Run Creek, and Main, Water and Broadway streets will have been converted to grass fields.
Federal rules prohibit most types of redevelopment on land purchased by FEMA grant funds, but parks and trails are allowed. For the properties in downtown Greenwood, the plan for now is to simply leave them as a wide-open greenspace, though in the future a trail could be built through the area, Taggart said.
Using homes purchased and demolished on the cul-de-sac at the south end of Bomar Street, the parks department plans to construct a trail connecting Northwest Park and Northwest Park Annex, which sit about a half-mile apart on Fry Road, Taggart said.
The trail could open as soon as this summer, he said.
At the former strip mall along Madison Avenue, the buildings on the eight-acre property have been demolished, and by this summer, the entire site will be re-seeded as a grass field. What comes next hasn’t been determined, though the stormwater department has plans to make improvements to Pleasant Run Creek to limit the impact of flooding in the area.
In the past year, Greenwood has been purchases properties across the city, in an effort to tear down dilapidated buildings, remove homes from the floodway and add more land for parks and trails.
Cost: $2 million