Smithville Residents Concerned Revitalization Plan Will Lead to Gentrification

CORNELIUS, N.C. — Gladys Henderson has lived in the Smithville neighborhood in Cornelius for decades. 

She eventually purchased a home in the historic black neighborhood – a home that now needs thousands of dollars in repairs. 

“The roof repairs, the bathroom and electrical. I’m having electrical problems,” Henderson said. 

 A nearly $75 million revitalization plan led by the Smithville Community Coalition aims to help homeowners like Henderson while preserving the historic neighborhood and fixing problems like aging infrastructure and poor storm drainage. 

 Part of the proposed plan includes providing assistance to homeowners who need critical repairs and restoration work done to their homes. 

However, Henderson said  she hasn’t seen the Smithville Community Coalition do any work on her home or in the neighborhood. 

“I would want them to come out and see what’s going on because they need to come out and  talk to the people in the community,” Henderson said.

She said she has received multiple offers to buy her home and now worries it could be the start of gentrification.   

“I feel like they’re trying to force us out because they want this property now,” Henderson said. 

 Willie Jones, executive director of the Smithville Community Coalition, said while the plan includes building new homes and townhomes they are not pushing existing  homeowners out. 

” We’re only making changes to vacant land and empty buildings,” Jones said.

 He also said they are prioritizing homes in need of critical repairs first and then working to send a consultant to look at homes like Henderson’s which may have historic value. 

“Those we will definitely need a consultant before we go down the historical path,” Jones said.

Jones says work is currently being done on the project and the deadline to spend the funding secured for the project is 2026. 

He hopes residents will keep an open mind and know the change they want to see  just takes time.  

“You have to create new facts on the ground and that’s part of what this revitalization plan is attempting to do.”