For a time, Travelers Rest was hardly a place for travelers to rest. But the town’s transformation of Main Street from a rather desolate thoroughfare into a bustling downtown has been an economic development home run.
Just 10 years ago, before the Greenville Hospital System Swamp Rabbit Trail officially opened and $4.5 million was spent to turn three blocks into a walkable retail and food and beverage stretch, Main Street Travelers Rest, aka U.S. Highway 276, had dozens of vacant buildings. Now, it is a destination and a city running out of available property.
Now, the city wants to extend the revitalization to Poinsett Highway and Center Street, streets that connect Main Street to U.S. 25, the other major thoroughfare that bifurcates the city.
“It’s a natural extension of Main Street,” City Administrator Dianna Gracely said.
And it will use the same approach — road and intersection improvements, bike paths, infill development, streetscaping, and sidewalk improvements.
“The idea is that if we invest in public spaces with streetscaping and pocket parks, it will stimulate private investment,” Gracely said. “It worked on Main Street.”
Poinsett Highway could serve as another gateway into downtown Travelers Rest, she said. “We want it to be really attractive,” Gracely said. “Right now, it’s most definitely not attractive.”
But looks are not the only concern. “Safety is a concern,” she said.
A recommended master plan developed by Alta Planning + Design identifies some key intersections for improvements — Center Street and Poinsett; North Poinsett and Tubbs Mountain Road; and North Poinsett, Hawkins Road, and U.S. 25. The city wants a traffic signal or three-way stop at Center Street and Poinsett, where it forms a “V,” and another traffic signal at Poinsett and Tubbs Mountain Road, a road on which a subdivision has been proposed.
It also includes new sidewalks, bike paths, trees, and “pocket parks.”
“Poinsett is prime for mixed use and retail,” Gracely said.
Some reinvestment is already occurring. A former mobile home park is the proposed site of a 44-unit age-restricted apartment complex. The complex would be for residents 55 years of age and up. The city sold its old fire station, and the restaurant Chicora Alley is looking to put a third location there, Gracely said. On vacant property next to the library, six townhomes are planned, she said.
“We’ve already seen some private investment,” she said.
Gracely said final costs have not been determined, but she said it likely will be $4 million to $6 million and will probably be completed in four or five phases. City Council will likely start discussing the plan in committee this month, and Gracely said she expects to know more about the direction council wants to take by the end of the year.
Gracely said if all goes well, work could start in a year but that it could take two to three years depending on funding.
“We think we’ll see the same kind of results as we did on Main Street,” she said.
The Poinsett Highway and Center Street project would be the third major capital project on which the city has embarked. The first was Main Street. The second was the purchase and transformation of the old Travelers Rest High School into Trailblazer Park. That project cost $2 million, not including a new fire station and City Hall.