GREENVILLE, S.C. — A church in South Carolina painted pink with the word "Trap" written on it by a real estate developer on it is listed for sale for $2.5 million, and some local residents say they are betrayed and angry.
The former Bibleway Full Gospel Missionary Baptist Church property on Woodside Avenue in Greenvillewas sold to Rallis Wood LLC for $425,000 in April, according to a property deed.
LoopNet now lists it as available for redevelopment "in booming West Greenville."
The listing came after developer Ron Rallis heard concerns from residents about gentrification in the neighborhood.
Now neighbors of the property fear that's exactly what would be spurred by the sale the developer seeks.
Hystroric church now 'an eyesore'
The church's last service was held on the site June 19. It's since relocated to another area about seven miles east of its former building.
Bibleway had been on Woodside Avenue since 1995. The property was owned by Church of God Trs. before Bibleway purchased it, according to county property records.
Rallis did not respond to phone calls or text messages from The Greenville News, part of the USA TODAY Network, last week.
On July 30, he held an impromptu "community forum" where he addressed his painting of the closed church as well as concerns he posted on social media and other outlets claiming he was falsely arrested for two felonies.
Community members at the forum expressed fears of gentrification, where longtime residents would be forced out by higher prices brought on by redevelopment.
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In a video posted on Instagram on Aug. 4, he expressed willingness to work with neighbors in his efforts to redevelop the property, but he included a statement that struck a nerve with some: "Daddy is here to make money."
"Not only did I waste a lot of time ever giving him the benefit of the doubt, he turned a historically Black church into an eyesore because he doesn't care," ocal restaurant owner Dayna Lee said after hearing the statement.
She said Rallis used the community forums he organized “as tools to deceive everyone that attended" and "never was committed to being anything more than a publicity stunt in the first place."
“I am sure that his fancy lofts will rent out quickly and for a lot of money, but I worry for the people who have lived in the Woodside community for generations that will be negatively affected," she said.
'Rooted in the church'
Greenville County Council approved rezoning the property to RM20 multifamily residential July 19 to "redevelop the site for apartments or condos at 20 units per acre," according to a zoning docket.
The LoopNet listing, created Aug. 12, claims the property is approved for 42 units.
Rallis compared his painting of the church in the unincorporated area of the Woodside community to Rapper 2 Chainz's creation of a "Pink Trap House" to market the album "Pretty Girls Like Trap Music."
“Then he (2 Chainz) took that platform and was able to invest in the community, and all that came after the fact, once there was noise,” Rallis said at the July 30 forum.
Latisha Miles, whose family has lived in the Woodside area for decades, never thought the property would ever not be a church.
It wasn’t until gentrification came into Woodside that they could even get sidewalks, she said. She called it "selfish" that Rallis would use their community to make a "statement" about a privileged white man having difficulties with law enforcement.
"I was rooted in the church, grew up in the church," said Miles, who was disturbed by the church's pink paint and adornment with "Trap." "I did not like it, so I reached out to the owner," Miles said.
Miles, a photographer who leads a Woodside community group, said she is passionate about her neighborhood. She can still tell you every place where you used to be able to pick plums, blackberries, apples and more. She can also tell you the streets she and other neighborhood kids used to race on and play hopscotch.
But the neighborhood is changing, she said. A lot of the elderly have died, and others are losing their homes to higher taxes, she said. Newcomers are moving in as longtime community residents can no longer afford to keep the homes, she said.
Lease on a studio unitin the area more than $1,400 a month, according to a local loft's website.
'It's not better'
Woodside, though, has been a predominately low-income neighborhood.
Still, people have asked residents why they didn't buy the church property, Miles said.
"If we could buy the property, we probably wouldn’t have been in the neighborhood," she said. "Everyday working-class people can’t afford that kind of expense. Of course, if we could, the gentrification wouldn’t be happening all over the country."
Miles said she has nothing against Rallis, but she doesn't agree with just putting housing on the church property. It could cause more gentrification, she said.
It doesn’t bother Miles that people may be trying to make the community better with new housing, but, "what bothers me is that it’s not better for the people who are from the community," she said.
She doesn’t yet know all of the people there but feels a responsibility to be an advocate for them. Her restaurant has fed many less-privileged people in the last 10 months that it has been open. Hundreds of plates were given away for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So, when Rallis painted the longtime predominately Black church pink and wrote Trap atop it, Lee said that she'd help him repaint it pink if he committed to doing something with it that, in the long run, would benefit the neighborhood.
Suggestions were tossed out by the community at the first community forum in July.
“None of the suggestions were viable to him — not a community center for at-risk youth, not a rehab center for people who struggle with addiction, not a resource center for people who are exiting the prison system and returning to the workforce, not a study center for the nearby Legacy Early College Campus, not a testing center for HIV (like the original pink church in Atlanta turned into, thanks to 2 Chainz). Nothing," Lee said.
'Put up or shut up'
Resident Terry Warnex said Rallis' intent and purpose was to publicize his personal conflicts through the attention drawn from the pink church.
"Once the story broke and new attention from the community was drawn from it, I think the owner now himself in somewhat of a dilemma, one he didn't intend for," Warnex said.
Warnex said the community spoke up and asked him to “him to put up or shut up.”
"Nothing is final until it's done. I believe he will find a way to let the story die down with time, all the while refocusing his attention and energy towards what brought all of this on in the first place — his personal situations."
Contributing: Natalie Neysa Alund with USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Greenville SC pink 'trap church' property for sale for $2.5 million