Strolling down the block near his Highland Avenue home, Anthony Holcombe can catch glimpses of both his neighborhood’s troubled past and its potentially hopeful future.
There are the houses boarded up with plywood, the overgrown yards and the nearby low-income housing complexes that continue to get the bulk of police calls. But there are also the street corners and homes that were once magnets for drug activity and violence, now mostly quiet.
“When I was young it was very bad. … It’s not like it used to be,” said Holcombe, 37. “People are trying to step up and do something. I’m not afraid. I’m trying to be positive in life and do the right thing.”
Like other longtime residents, Holcombe says things are improving after decades of drugs and crime that began in the 1970s.
But Highland still faces significant challenges. It is one of Spartanburg’s most concentrated areas of poverty, with a high density of public housing and a low median income. To truly see progress, some say, a master plan and more community involvement is needed.
Highland stretches from West Main Street to Fairforest Creek between John B. White Sr. Boulevard and Forest Street. The neighborhood of about 1,700 has the lowest median income in Spartanburg County — $11,708, according to 2015 U.S. Census data. That compares to a median income of $45,125 for Spartanburg County.
A community survey last year that received more than 100 responses from residents of all ages identified poor housing conditions, violence and drug activity and poor access to services as some of the worst things about living in Highland.
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