It’s the lowest-hanging revitalization fruit in town.
When we name neighborhoods close to downtown, we typically list South Park, Greenmont, and First Ward. But what gets glossed over in the mix is the closest neighborhood of all: the overlooked lower section of Greenmont, the ⅓-mile-long strip of land between Brockway Avenue and Deckers Creek—think below Phoenix Bakery and The Laundry.
This little creekside enclave of some 100 structures was once a diverse working-class community where residents shopped in stores right in the neighborhood and rode the trolley to work in the factories in Sabraton. It’s a prime location, and the Kern’s Crossing pedestrian bridge that opened in 2018 connected the neighborhood directly to the Deckers Creek rail-trail and brought it even closer to all of the dining, entertainment, and services downtown.
With a few shining exceptions, Lower Greenmont today consists mainly of neglected rentals on over-parked, poorly maintained streets. But now the Greenmont Neighborhood Association (GNA)—which represents both Lower Greenmont and the livelier upper section above Brockway, where many of us have visited Phoenix and other businesses like Cashland Pawn, Chestnut Brew Works, Gene’s Beer Garden, Madeleine Marie’s Catering and Carryout, and Quantum Bean Coffee—wants to bring fresh attention to this potential jewel of Morgantown.
“I think that everybody wants to see it spruced up and put back into better aesthetic order to make sure that we keep it from being plagued with drug problems as it has been from time time over the past 20 years,” says longtime former and now again GNA President Matt Held.
Held notes Morgantown’s need for more affordable housing. “Lower Greenmont is a place where people who work and don’t necessarily have a car could live and get to places to work,” he says. “I see it as a good spot to start densifying some of our residential stock.” To preserve the character that connects Lower Greenmont with its history and with downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, he suggests that triplexes could be built on lots where homes have been torn down.
Another housing need the neighborhood could meet is affordable single-family homes, in the mind of Adelheid Schaupp, a longtime GNA member who was also just appointed to the city’s Housing Advisory Commission. “Or what if we focus on housing for aging residents or retirees?”
Both Held and Schaupp note the potential of the old Wilson Works powerhouse building to anchor the neighborhood—a historical structure hosting a cafe and gallery or shops and a yoga studio can do a lot for a neighborhood’s identity.
Schaupp is contacting property owners and managers in the neighborhood now to understand their concerns and engage them in a dialogue. And in preparation for discussions to come, she’s also researching the status of trash pick-up, parking, and abandoned buildings and whether Sunnyside Up, the organization that has made good strides in the Sunnyside neighborhood, might be a good model here.
Got an interest? The GNA will schedule a meeting soon. Meetings take place at the Arch Street island if weather permits—BYO chair—or on Zoom. Join the Greenmont Neighborhood Association on Facebook to stay up to date.