The group works to improve the historically black neighborhood near Cornelius, while keeping its charm – WSOC TV

CORNELIUS, NC — Neighbors in a historically black neighborhood near Cornelius are fighting to keep its character alive.

A Smithville group is lobbying for affordable homes and the preservation of existing properties in their area. Channel 9 has learned that some of this funding has been approved.

Activists want to retain the charm and character of Smithville, but recognize the need for renovation.

The Smithfield Community Coalition has asked the town of Cornelius for $6.6 million in US bailout funds. The group will learn this summer if this will become a reality.

Supporters are pushing to upgrade aging infrastructure and sewers and fund the creation of 200 workforce housing units.

They marched more than half a mile to City Hall on 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 a good number of old people and a fairly old housing stock. So that’s part of what we want to protect — the residents of these homes — but also the historic character of Smithville,” said Smithfield Community Coalition board member Willie Jones.

The group celebrates the small steps towards their goal.

In March, Mecklenburg County approved $3 million in COVID-19 relief funds. The Smithfield Community Coalition said the funds will be used to acquire vacant land in the community as part of the revitalization plan.

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