Report: Kitson Mill could be hub of creativity
By: ADAM BENSON
Imagine an indoor rock climbing complex, enclosed shooting range or cooperative space for artists or craftsmen in the heart of Uptown Greenwood.
Nearby, a service station — once rundown with cracked asphalt and broken windows — repurposed into an eclectic outdoor café, gift shop or novelty store.
Such things are possible for the roughly 7-acre site on Kitson Avenue that was once part of Greenwood Mill, a new study suggests.
City leaders took ownership of the property through a tax deed in the mid-2000s.
“I really encourage you to think about the potential of this site as a jobs creator, a small business incubator and also the opportunity at have some recreational potential to not only provide for the needs of the residents here in Greenwood County, but be a draw for others to come and partake there,” Jason Epley, president of Charlotte-based Benchmark Planning, told stakeholders during a recent unveiling of the study. “Getting there and making these things happen will take a lot of hard work.”
But much of it has already been done. Through a combination of public and private partnerships, city leaders over the past decade have acquired grants and funds to remove structures from the former mill and remediate the property.
Over the spring, officials commissioned Benchmark to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the site as a prelude to future development.
“Our goal is to create interest in the site while continuing to capitalize on the continued interest in Uptown,” City Finance Director Steffanie Dorn said. “Now what we want is a development partner to return this property to a viable part of the Greenwood Mill community. I continued to hear from developers that they wanted to see a market study.”
The Kitson Mill property is unique in several ways. First, its flexible zoning allows for creative uses that may not be permitted in other parts of the city. It also has light traffic volume surrounding it — only about 4,500 vehicles a day — that makes it undesirable for heavy retail or pure office space, Epley said.
“What we’re talking about are uses that may want to be Uptown but cannot afford the Uptown rents, building code may prevent something that they’d like to do that’s creative in the Uptown,” he said.
Analysts said the Kitson Mill area could have about 810 new residents by 2030 — a growth rate of 8.7 percent.
Although price points likely would be high because of construction costs, Epley said a public-private partnership between local governments and entities such as Lander University or the Greenwood Genetic Center could offset some of the financial barriers.
However, he said, an ecosystem built around creativity is the best way for the site to blossom — ideas such as membership-based workspaces for the fabrication of new products, a food truck commissary, commercial kitchens or specialized motor vehicle services.
“We see this whole collection of properties as an opportunity for that variety of uses,” he said. “There are some existing buildings that have a lot of character and potential for these type of uses.”