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Uptown Greenwood: Brick By Brick

Post Date:02/11/2018 12:52 PM

Index Journal Editorial 

By:  CHRIS TRAINOR

Nothing happens by accident — at least not when it comes to municipal revitalization.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in Uptown Greenwood.

As most of you likely know, I was a full-time reporter at the Index-Journal for a decade, from 2004-14, before moving to the Midlands, where I now ply the vast majority of my journalistic efforts for the long-running alt-weekly Free Times.

But in the 10 years that I spent toiling at 610 Phoenix St., one of my main beats was covering the City of Greenwood. The police, the city council, the mayor’s office, the merchants, you name it.

And one of the key pieces of that tapestry of coverage, over time, was to observe and report on the unending efforts of the city to renovate, rejuvenate and revitalize Uptown Greenwood. To inject new life into a district of the city that had faded. To make moves that would sustain the businesses that had held on through the lean years, while at the same time being inviting to new private investment. And to convince you highfalutin north siders that it was OK to come south of the railroad tracks every once in a while.

It wasn’t easy or glamorous or something that was done without a healthy dose of grumbling from naysayers and upholders of the status quo. And it certainly wasn’t something that was done overnight (in fact, work is still ongoing).

There’s nothing flashy about the process, when you’re going through it. There’s nothing sexy about Community Development Block Grants for streetscaping, a well the city went to numerous times over the years. Nothing sexy about paving a new parking lot where an unsightly, dusty, dirt and gravel lot once was. Nothing sexy about duking it out with CSX in an effort to get a once teeth-rattling, bumpy railroad crossing on lower Maxwell Avenue smoothed out for traffic. Nothing particularly glamorous about matching façade improvement grants to give businesses extra capital for much needed aesthetic upgrades.

But the city has done those things, one piece at a time. When combined with standalone and seasonal efforts — such as greatly increasing the number of lights and decorations Uptown during Christmas, or shutting down Main Street to vehicular traffic during the venerable Festival of Discovery barbecue bash, thus making the event demonstrably more pedestrian-friendly — the work Greenwood City Council, city administrators and Mayor Welborn Adams (and former Mayor Floyd Nicholson before him) have undertaken in the last decade-plus have demonstrated a brick-by-brick approach to city center renewal.

I say all of this while noting that I now have a unique perspective in viewing things that are happening Uptown. I’m not a full-timer at the Index any longer, and yet this column endures, giving me a presence in the paper on a weekly basis. I don’t live in the Lakelands, but I own a home in Greenwood and my family and many friends live in Abbeville and Greenwood, so I’m in the area fairly regularly. This gives me an opportunity to see things from the point of view of an insider and an outsider. So, for instance, when I visited Uptown on a Saturday during the holidays, and watched as people popped into shops and boutiques, and slid into booths and onto stools at the various restaurants and bars, the vibrancy of the whole thing struck me.

“It’s happening,” I thought, and I might have even said it out loud. All those pieces of revitalization that I reported on for all those years have begun to work in harmony.

And now it seems a new piece is on the horizon. It might be a horizon that is still far away, but we can see it from here. As you might have read in the Index last week, city leaders recently received a report on the possibilities of the old mill site on Kitson Street, property that is owned by the city. For years, the closed down, decrepit mill was an eyesore in the city center, just off lower Maxwell. The mill building is now gone and, after years of cleanup and governmental red tape and Brownfields assessments (again, not sexy), the city has the future of the property in mind.

Consultants and city officials have suggested that the site could be one that utilizes public-private partnerships in a business incubator type of environment, with multiple types of enterprises — items mentioned in the Index piece last week included “membership-based workspaces for the fabrication of new products, a food truck commissary, commercial kitchens or specialized motor vehicle services” — being potential ideas for the site.

The new economy on the property of a former textile mill — the perfect metaphor for Greenwood, a tougher-than-leather town that just keeps rolling on.

Nothing happens by accident.

Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.