Commentary, Local, Mauldin

City Center…It’s the First Step, but it’s a Big Step

I’ve wanted to talk about this for months, but as we worked with the developer to unveil this project on the right timeline, we had to keep it under wraps.

I’m frequently asked, “Is downtown EVER going to happen?” My short answer has always been, “Yes.”

The longer answer gets into things like finding the right development partner, working with someone who wants to help create a destination within the city center area, and understanding when it’s the right time to walk away from a plan (even when it’s a difficult decision).

As much as COVID’s impact has pressed the pause button for a lot of economic development projects, Mauldin’s phones have kept ringing with people interested in working on the city’s downtown. In fact, I’d say we have more interest now than we ever have.

Developers are beginning to understand something I beat the drum about when I first campaigned in 2013. Our location makes us a prime spot for businesses to locate. We have easy access to I-85 from multiple points. We have easy access to I-385 from multiple points. We have cargo rail service. We have available real estate inventory. We have a blank canvas ideal for large employers to expend their operations, relocate, or open shop for the first time. We have affordable per-square foot commercial options that allow retailers, service providers, and restaurants to open their doors and capture the consumer dollars that have leaked out of Mauldin for years.

Now, Drew Parker, founder and Broker-in-Charge of The Parker Group, is going to take advantage of what Mauldin has to offer. As he said, “It’s all about Mauldin’s location, which is phenomenal.”

Parker’s development group is purchasing 6.5 acres from the city to build a mixed-use development consisting of townhomes, a food hall, and a 25,000 square feet indoor/outdoor entertainment hub with pickleball and a host of other games. Situated along the railroad tracks on Jenkins Court and bordered on the east and west by Murray Drive and North Main Street, respectively, Parker expects to have the dining and entertainment components open for business around late spring or early summer of next year.

With the food hall hosting several different restaurant concepts, the complex is also expected to include a beer garden, an outdoor entertainment stage, covered outdoor seating, 5000 square feet of patio space, fire pits, and plenty of green space.

If Parker’s name sounds familiar, it might be because his group developed The Commons near what will be Unity Park in Downtown Greenville, or it might be because he’s a local guy. He moved here to attend Furman in 1996 and decided to call this area home.

Neighboring municipalities have been able to rehab their downtowns, but Mauldin has the opportunity to create one from scratch, and that’s an exciting prospect.

One thing we know from the renovations our neighbors have done and are doing is that it all takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t start a journey without taking the first step, and that’s what’s happening now. It’s the first step for City Center, and what a big step it is.

— Taft Matney serves in Seat 1 on Mauldin city Council. He can be reached at■

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