In the city of Greer, a 14-acre trailer park had fallen into deep disrepair, and developers were looking to buy the plot to overhaul it into new developments. While this type of investment can sometimes breathe new life into communities, it also has the potential to repeat an all-too-familiar story. One where long-time residents are slowly but surely priced out of their neighborhoods through the steady march of gentrification.
However, with the foresight and community-centered work of the Greenville County Redevelopment Authority (GCRA), this plot of land was redeveloped to tell a different story.
In partnership with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and with contributions from other grants, GCRA got to work on major infrastructure repairs and projects. The result of this overhaul was a neighborhood of new homes built for seniors and low- to moderate-income families. And in 2008, Creekside Community welcomed its first homeowners.
The development features tidy streets of new homes set into a gently rolling expanse of lawns. Thanks to these grants, the cost of the infrastructure improvements was not passed along to the new homeowners. However, the investment in the new neighborhood did not cover trees. More than a decade after the first families moved in, Creekside was still lacking trees to root residents in their community.
“Trees tell stories for people,” said Julian Nixon, Director for Diversity and Inclusion at the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences at Clemson University. “They make a space intimate, which makes it more of a home. So that's that connection of a tree with people in their homes.”