Group works to improve historically Black neighborhood near Cornelius, while keeping charm

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Neighbors in a historically Black neighborhood near Cornelius are fighting to keep its character alive.

A group in Smithville has been pushing for affordable house and preservation of existing properties in their area. Channel 9 has learned some of that funding has been approved.

Activists want to keep the charm and character of Smithville, but recognize the need to renovate.

The Smithfield Community Coalition has a request into the Town of Cornelius for $6.6 million in American Rescue Plan funds. The group will learn this summer whether that will become a reality.

Supporters are pushing for improvements to aging infrastructure and sewage and fund to create 200 units of workforce housing.

They marched more than half a mile to town hall Monday night to get leaders’ attention. They call their fight part of an anti-displacement and anti-gentrification strategy.

“You have an old neighborhood with quite a number of seniors and quite old housing stock. So that’s part of what we want to protect -- the people in those houses -- but also the historic character of Smithville,” said Willie Jones, a board member of the Smithfield Community Coalition.

The group is celebrating baby steps toward their goal.

In March, Mecklenburg County approved $3 million in COVID-19 relief money. The Smithfield Community Coalition said those funds will go toward acquiring vacant land in the community as part of the revitalization plan.

(WATCH BELOW: Residents worry NCDOT project will cut historically black neighborhood in half)