Alley Project Update

The pavers are (finally!) in, and work on the alley project is continuing! This common area and the bathroom is going to be a great addition to downtown Simpsonville! When I was running for Council, I told you downtown needed to become a place where people come to visit and stay awhile. This helps achieve that goal. So do many of our other ongoing downtown projects. Promises made, promises kept.

Promises made, promises kept: SRT

Promises made, promises kept: the Green Line section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail is coming to downtown Simpsonville! City Council voted tonight. In 2015, I told you “It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion: we need to bring the SRT to Simpsonville, sooner rather than later” (see original blog post here). I promised to focus on getting it done because it’s good for Simpsonville and for all of us who live, work,and play here. And here we are. Finally. And the Golden Strip Trails group will continue to work to connect us to our sister cities. This is just the beginning! This section of the trail will be paid for from our Hospitality & Accommodations Tax funds, not your property tax dollars. Also, County Councilman Dan Tripp helped us out with some County dollars.

We Voted: Swamp Rabbit is Coming to Simpsonville!

Promises made, promises kept: the Green Line section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail is coming to downtown Simpsonville! City Council voted tonight. In 2015, I told you “It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion: we need to bring the SRT to Simpsonville, sooner rather than later” (see original blog post here: https://bit.ly/2vWwEcp). I promised to focus on getting it done because it’s good for Simpsonville and for all of us who live, work,and play here. And here we are. Finally. And the Golden Strip Trails group will continue to work to connect us to our sister cities. This is just the beginning! This section of the trail will be paid for from our Hospitality & Accommodations Tax funds, not your property tax dollars. Also, County Councilman Dan Tripp helped us out with some County dollars.

Downtown Bathroom Construction Underway!

Construction on the public bathrooms downtown is underway and expected to be complete by the end of May. This is going to be a great addition to downtown. When you come to visit, you can stay a while. That’s good for us locals, our out-of-town visitors, and our local downtown businesses! I promised in 2015 to work towards making downtown that kind of place: promises made, promises kept!

bath

On Development and Smart Growth

Development dominated the agenda of our last Committee of the Whole meeting.  As did talk of smart growth and traffic concerns.  These are concerns Council hears from YOU.  And we are reflecting those concerns in our discussions around and decisions about proposed development.

Late last year, Council unanimously voted down a project at the corner of Neely Ferry and S. Baldwin.  As I explained here, this was a request for a major change to the plan originally submitted after the city annexed this property in 2006. It is known as Waterleaf at Neely Ferry and is located right behind Food Lion.

We explained several reasons why we were opposed to this proposed development. You can read about that here.

As a result, the developer “went back to the drawing board.”  In between the December meeting and our Committee of the Whole meeting in February, I had the opportunity to speak directly to the developer, Graycliffe Capital. And at the most recent meeting, they presented a new plan to Council, one that I am really excited about.  Here’s why:

  1. One of Council’s concerns was about a blind spot created by a hill on Neely Ferry as you coming past S. Baldwin towards W. Georgia Rd. If you drive this route, you know what I’m talking about: it’s difficult to see at all what’s coming and can be very dangerous.  Graycliffe heard us, and they brought a solution.  They spoke to SCDOT about what it would take to resolve this issue.  SCDOT will not itself do anything to correct the issue.  However, Graycliffe has offered to fix it at their expense.  They will basically shave down the road to eliminate the hill that creates the blind spot. This, to me, is one of the best things about this project.  We will get road improvements we would otherwise never get.  We get to address an existing safety concern that would only have been made worse by more traffic.  This is the kind of response from developers we like to and should see.
  2. Another concern was the entry/exit onto S. Baldwin. Council simply does not believe that S. Baldwin can handle additional traffic.  Problem solved: entry and exit onto S. Baldwin will be gated and protected by a Knox Box.  This will prevent anyone other than emergency vehicles from entering.  Emergency vehicles must be able to enter because that’s required.
  3. I recently wrote about the importance of sidewalks and connectivity. Another major plus for me is that this neighborhood will be connected internally and externally by sidewalk. It will be completely walkable.  The developer will connect to the existing sidewalk on Neely Ferry in front of the Food Lion.  This connection will allow those who live at the Water Leaf to walk easily and safely to buy groceries at Food Lion or pick up prescriptions at CVS.  And because we already have crosswalks and walk signals at the intersection of Neely Ferry and West Georgia Rd., they’ll also be able to walk their children to Plain Elementary.
  4. The plan we saw in December was for an all residential project. And as I mentioned previously, this area had been identified for mixed use. The developer took note of our objection to this change.  The new development is mixed use.  It features not just apartments but also office buildings.  Density has been reduced—there will be fewer apartments.  This is in keeping with the city’s vision for this area.
  5. Green space! The old plan basically levelled the property. The new plan preserves a significant amount of the natural area, saving existing trees and incorporating a new walking trail.

This new project is a wonderful example of smart growth. This is a development that helps Simpsonville.  I spoke in favor of this development at the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 27th.  I voted in favor of it.  Council unanimously voted yes.  The project will now appear on the March Business Meeting agenda for a final vote.

I hope that we see more authentic collaboration between developers and city officials in the future.  And I hope we see more results like this.

In 2015, I promised to work towards “One Simpsonville,” where we all work together for a better Simpsonville. Today, we’re doing that.

As presented to both the Planning Commission and Council at the February Committee of the Whole: screenshot_20180306-141608878466298.png

Growing Downtown with A-Tax Funds

Last night one of the topics Council discussed was the disbursement of A-Tax funds for the upcoming year.  As a reminder, A-tax (or accommodations tax) funds are those that are collected when we go out to local businesses and eat.  There’s an extra 2% tax. Once collected, that money is put into a Special Revenue Fund.  Those funds are restricted by state law to pay for things that serve and attract tourists and benefit those tourists who regularly visit the city. State law also dictates that an A-Tax Committee is appointed by Council to make recommendations regarding disbursement of available funds each year.

The A-Tax Committee receives applications for those funds.  They review them and make recommendations to Council.  Last night, we received their recommendations. One of the items I was most excited about was the awarding of funds for the building of public restrooms downtown.  With the exception of the Councilwoman from Ward 4, we all approved of this item.  Ms. Braswell expressed concern that such a project did not meet the A-tax guidelines. She doesn’t think they’re tourism-related.  I disagree.  So did Councilman Gooch and Mayor Curtis in their comments, and the other 3 councilmembers did by virtue of their votes.  The vote was 6-1.

Last Friday night, I went downtown, and it was hopping! People were everywhere. In large part, I believe this is because we have attracted the right businesses to our downtown area.  In the last several months, we’ve had many new establishments open: What’s on Tap, Sweet Sippin’, Authentique, and now Rail Line Brewing!  The new swings and the rejuvenated park benches all contribute to making downtown a great

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Let’s keep making downtown a great place to visit!

place to hang out.  So it’s not surprising that this is the first time I’ve seen downtown so busy outside of special events.  It was amazing.  And you better believe some of those people were from outside the city limits. Further, every time we hold an event downtown, we bring in people from outside the city.  But there’s no place to use the bathroom unless you visit one of the local businesses. So I don’t see how public restrooms for those people to use is anything other than a facility that will “benefit those tourists who regularly visit the city.”

Since this was a Committee of the Whole Meeting, we will have a final vote at our November Business Meeting.  I hope Council continues to support funding this item. It can only help as we continue to grow our downtown into a place where people want to visit and stay awhile, and that’s something I’ve been focused on since my Campaign Launch. It will also fit in nicely with the plan we submitted for the Hometown Economic Development grant to turn the empty downtown alley into a new dynamic outdoor space.

In 2015, I promised to work towards improving our downtown.  Today, we’re making that happen: promises made, promises kept.

 

Simpsonville SC will have one of the best concert venues in SC!

“What if we could guarantee you more, bigger, better concerts at the Amphitheater, thus increasing your revenue—without costing you a single penny more?”

That’s the question Roger Dickson of TRZ Entertainment brought to Council several months ago.

But doesn’t that sound too good to be true?  Who gets something for nothing?  No one, of course.  But Mr. Dickson and TRZ weren’t lying: they weren’t asking for a single penny more than we’ve been giving them.

What they did ask was for us to “put a little more skin in the game,” to make a bigger investment—not in cash, but in commitment level.  They asked for a 5-year contract for management of the amphitheater.  Up until now, they’ve been getting a one-year contract every year.

What do we get in return? Exactly what they promised—but we’re not relying on their word for it.  A couple months ago, TRZ presented us with an economic impact study, conducted by an expert third party at their expense, illustrating the huge gains we would receive from a stronger concert schedule.  This data, provided at Council’s request, drove our decision to approve the 5-year contract at last night’s Council meeting. Those bigger, better, more impactful concerts will come because TRZ is investing in a long-term contract with Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company in America.  This is something TRZ would be unable to do without a longer term commitment from the City.

This new agreement guarantees a better concert schedule—with more big-name entertainers.  This is possible (in part) because, as the largest live entertainment company in the country, Live Nation is able to buy full concert series and schedule whole tours across the country at the various concert venues with whom they contract.  And this means a bigger economic impact for Simpsonville.

This was no overnight decision, nor one we took lightly: it was something that TRZ and the City have been working on for some time.  And last night, we finally arrived at a contract to which both parties agreed. Council unanimously approved the new contract after an Executive Session to review that final contract.

Many thanks to Mr. Roger Dickson from TRZ, Mr. Robbie Davis (Department Head, Simpsonville Parks & Recreation), Mr. Eddie Case (former City Administrator), Mr. Wesley Williams (current City Administrator), and Mr. David Holmes (City Attorney) for all of their hard work on this project.  Thanks to their efforts, we will now have one of the best concert venues in South Carolina—and Simpsonville will reap the rewards of its success.

 

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Hometown Economic Development

What if this empty, rarely used alley downtown were a dynamic outdoor space providing public restrooms and a safe gathering/event space?

Downtown Alley
Alley across from the Ice Cream Station on SE Main St.

That’s our vision! That’s why City staff have applied for a $25,000 Hometown Economic Development grant from the Municipal Association of SC.  Here’s the best part about this grant opportunity: like many grants, it requires a match from the City.  In this case 15%. But it doesn’t have to be in cash–it can be in in-kind contributions.

This project was one our recently passed City Administrator Eddie Case was excited about. And I am glad we are moving forward to try to make this vision a reality.  More details about project costs and potential in-kind contributions will be presented to Council at the next Business Meeting, where we’ll be asked to pass a resolution supporting the grant application.

This is a great opportunity for us to make the most of underutilized public spaces in our historic downtown, which requires attention to pedestrian amenities as it continues to grow. This project will be great for downtown, our residents, and economic development.

Simpsonville Chamber 2017 A-List Awards

Tonight I got to attend our Simpsonville Area Chamber of Commerce 2017 Annual Celebration. Our Chamber does great work all year long to help make our city great. The Chamber has 400 members. 97 of those were nominated by members of this community to receive recognition as “the best of the best.” There were 16 categories, and over 1000 votes to determine the finalists. Tonight, we celebrated together the successes and contributions of the 2017 A-List businesses: Main Street Dental, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Chick-fil-A of Simpsonville (Fairview Rd.), Country Store at Vaughn’s, Ray Thompson’s Upstate Karate, Merle Norman of Simpsonville, Sportsclub Simpsonville, Cleveland Park Animal Hospital, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Danny Smith’s Fillin’ and Fixin’ Station, Allen Tate Realtors, The Springs at Simpsonville, Events at Sapphire Creek, The Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and Allstate Insurance: Cornell Sweeney.

Tonight we also celebrated the graduates of Leadership Simpsonville. This group of people is responsible for both the swings you’re seeing go up downtown AND the Sensory Playground that we’ll be installing at City Park in the very near future. They raised well over their $20,000 goal for that playground. We are so fortunate to have such dedicated people willing to give of their time, talents, and energy to make our city great. We haven’t seen the last of these folks–they‘re going to be making a difference in Simpsonville for years to come. Thanks and kudos to Morgan Balchin of Davis Orthodontics, PA, Marnie Schwartz-Hanley of Simpsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Brittney Sweeney Brockman of Allstate Insurance: Cornell Sweeney, Seretta Halley of Hampton Inn, Dr. Rebecca Holmes of Main Street Dental, Frank Wilburn of Greenville Technical College Brashier Campus, Kevin Willmot of Edward Jones Investments, and Discover Simpsonville‘s own Tiffany Cherry and Chad Foster! 

sensory playground

Grand Central @ Martin Farms

Many people have been wondering what’s going on at the corner of Fairview and Harrison Bridge Roads.  Here are the details, courtesy of a Press Release issued today:

The Windsor Aughtry Company and the City of Simpsonville announce new commercial development, Grand Central @ Martin Farms, located at the intersection of Fairview Road and Harrison Bridge Road.

 The Martin Family Farm has a long and storied history in Simpsonville dating back to the late 1800’s. In the early 1990’s, J.R. (Bob) Martin recognized the growth and development in Simpsonville as an opportunity. He told the family “you can’t stop progress. Change is inevitable, but growth is an option.”  Mr. Martin, a man who valued trust and integrity, worked with Windsor Aughtry Company to sell the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection of Fairview Road and Harrison Bridge Road and to later land lease the northwest corner of the property.  The southwest corner stood untouched as Mr. Martin vowed to remain in the house that stood on Martin Farms. He did so until his passing in 2011 at the age of 86 years old.

 The Martin family was immediately approached by developers regarding the last undeveloped corner. Through lots of thought and prayer, the family decided to honor their father’s vision of growth. When it was time to choose a developer, the family turned again to Windsor Aughtry Company, the company that Mr. Martin had first worked with over 20 years ago.

 It was important for the Martin family to not only retain ownership of the land, but for the new development to also honor the history of the farm. The development, which will feature 120,000 sq. ft of anchor and junior retail space, 9,600 sq. ft. shop space, and 6 outparcels, will incorporate special and unique features from the farm. Bricks from the home in which Mr. Martin lived for 80 years were carefully salvaged to be used in signage. An old water trough for the cows, stones that served as benches, and even the headstone of the first horse, Fairytale, were also excavated and preserved to be featured in the development.  The silo, an iconic landmark which stood prominently on the land, was not structurally sound but will be replicated on the property. Even the development name, Grand Central @ Martin Farms, is a nod to the old family nickname for the farmhouse. The whole look and ambiance of the development will be reminiscent of Martin Farms.

 Publix Super Markets, working with JSI Development,  is the first Grand Central @ Martin Farms tenant to announce plans for the new development. The grocer will be vacating their existing store on Fairview Road  and will occupy the 54,000 sq. ft. anchor store in the development.  A junior anchor and out parcels will be announced at a later date.

 Work on the development has already begun; the Publix  is anticipated to open Fall of 2017.

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