Florence breaks ground on Vista Place housing development

Florence breaks ground on Vista Place housing development
Vista Place (Source: Audrey Biesk)
Vista Place (Source: Audrey Biesk)

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The redevelopment continues in the city of Florence.

On Monday, city leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of the Vista Place housing development on North Vista and Irby streets.

The surrounding abandoned areas of downtown will see new infrastructure and development. The city identified the blighted neighborhoods and Vista Place is the first to see construction.

Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said for too many years it's seen disinvestment publicly and privately, and the city is trying to remedy that.

"Now the community has to buy into that and these are houses that are going to be for sale, and we have to have purchasers that are willing to come and purchase and live on Vista Street," Wukela said. "We can't have true economic development and growth in our community unless that is shared."

The city is working on the housing market and the first step is infrastructure to create investment. City leaders said the groundbreaking is proof that finances aren't just being put in downtown.

The city committed $3 million from the general redevelopment infrastructure dollars to buy the abandoned properties and fund construction. That is in addition to the $6 million from the Florence County Penny Sales Tax, as well as $200,000 as incentives for down payments and closing costs.

Bryant Moses was at the groundbreaking ceremony and said he just built his house right down the street from Vista Place.

"I'm glad they started to do something for the area," Moses said. "Plus they are fixing the highway out there, which is part of our penny taxes out there also; an easy in, easy out."

Wukela said the city wants to maintain and improve the current value, and keep the people who live here right now.

"We will be respectful of seniors, respectful of people who live here, and try to build a good product that is affordable to people who want to become homeowners," he said.

One concern for Moses and others who were at the groundbreaking is the senior citizens who have lived in the area for many years.

"That was one of the conversations when they came down and asked for public opinion," Moses said. "We talked about that, about the senior citizens in the community. We want to make sure they know they are on fixed income, and are paying taxes to keep the taxes at the lower rate as they are now."

The city already started streetscape improvements to go along with the new North Vista Elementary School. Three other blighted neighborhoods which were identified were the area of Sumter and Alexander streets, the old Carver Station and historic Pine Street.

"There is a lot of people who move out of the community and this might bring them back in the community to live," Moses said. "It might be a new family that comes in and that's more growth in the district. Progress is what it's all about."

The seven Vista Place homes will be ready for move in by fall 2017.

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