Mauldin is going through a growth spurt.
The city that had a reputation as a sleepy bedroom community to growing Greenville, a reputation that Mauldin City Councilman Taft Matney said was largely self-cultivated, has seen a boom in construction spending over the past three years.
Since 2016, construction spending has increased 150 percent, from nearly $18.4 million to more than $46 million, and city officials say the growth is overdue and not expected to end anytime soon.
“One thing Mauldin has going for it is, as the real estate adage says, ‘location, location, location,’” Matney said of the city’s proximity to interstates 385 and 85, the Southern Connector, and the Inland Port. “If product needs to be moved, Mauldin provides options. If it’s a service-based company, they still need to move people in and out, and our easy access allows them to do so.”
Most of the increase has come from the commercial side. New commercial-construction permits have skyrocketed, going from four in 2016 to 85 in 2018. The value of those permits has increased from just over $9.4 million in 2016 to nearly $34 million in 2018. The projects have included a new mortgage center for BB&T, the U.S. facility of Caristrap International, a new plant for Morley Companies, and Anyone Home’s new operations center.
“From an economic standpoint, Mauldin has been almost an oxymoron,” said Van Broad, the city’s community development director. “It’s the 17th largest city in the state with 25,000 people, but it’s been underserved. Everything outside Mauldin was growing, but nothing inside was.”
Mauldin is now benefiting from that. While many of the other municipalities in Greenville County are built out, Mauldin is not, Matney said.
“That gives us a competitive advantage,” he said.
And Mauldin is benefiting from Greenville’s success, too. While Greenville’s growth has spurred increased land values, property in Mauldin is still affordable, Matney said.
“For anybody who thinks trickle-down doesn’t work, this is an example of trickle-down working,” he said. “If proximity to amenities such as downtown Greenville without the associated price tag is attractive, Mauldin is the place to be.”
Same but different
Broad has experience in helping a Greenville County city grow.
Before he came to Mauldin in 2015, Broad was Fountain Inn’s economic development and cultural affairs director. While some of the challenges are the same, some are completely different.
Fountain Inn’s challenge was to revitalize a downtown that had more than 60 percent of its buildings empty. Mauldin doesn’t have a traditional Main Street-anchored downtown like most cities. Its Main Street is U.S. Highway 276, a multilaned thoroughfare.
Mauldin has had a plan to redevelop up to 24.5 acres of land near City Hall bounded by North Main Street, Jenkins Street, a railroad, and East Butler Road into City Center, a walkable, mixed-used village with shopping, dining, and apartments. A little over 11 of those acres are owned by the city.
“This will be a game changer,” Broad said. He said he hopes the city is close to a deal with a developer for the project. “It’s a redeveloper’s palette.”
Broad said City Center and the projects that have already been completed or announced will go a long way to stop the economic leakage from the city.
“There’s a huge hunger and energy to see City Center done,” he said. “It will change the mindset of people in town. When people see things happening, they believe that things can move forward.”
Broad said the latest retail market data showed Mauldin had a leakage of more than $33 million dollars in retail and restaurant sales, meaning residents leave Mauldin to shop and to eat out.
“Just imagine if we could capture one-quarter or one-half of that,” Broad said. “What park could we build, how many police officers could we hire? That money is already here. That’s money that’s here but is going out of Mauldin.”
While City Center would transform the U.S. Highway 276-Butler Road section of Mauldin, BridgeWay Station will transform the other end of Mauldin, Matney said. BridgeWay Station is a new mixed-use community that will feature more than 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants, Class A office space, residential, and hospitality and entertainment venues along a new main street. The project is being done by Hughes Investments, whose projects include RiverPlace and Falls Park Place.
Mauldin’s growth and more-aggressive sales pitch is working — the city was the top-ranked community on Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” list. It was recognized by Nerdwallet as one of the 10 best cities to start a business.
“We’ve got a good story to tell,” Broad said, “and people are getting the message.”
Cultural programming playing role in Mauldin’s growth
There are distinct differences in the challenges Van Broad faced in Mauldin as community development director and Fountain Inn as the head of economic development and cultural affairs.
While both cities needed to grow, Fountain Inn had a traditional downtown and Mauldin didn’t. Fountain Inn needed to attract businesses period, while Mauldin needed to attract different types of businesses.
But there’s a common thread between the two cities besides Broad — the importance of arts and cultural events to attract people, who would then attract businesses.
In Fountain Inn, the old high school was turned into a cultural center where art classes, theater productions, and concerts were held. In Mauldin, the elementary school had already been turned into the Mauldin Cultural Center, but there was a dearth of events. The year Broad started working for Mauldin, the city didn’t have a farmers market and only two concerts had been held in the amphitheater.
Keira Kitchings, who now directs the Mauldin Cultural Center, noticed, too.
“When I drove through Mauldin for the first time, I thought Mauldin looked like it had nothing going on,” said Kitchings, who had worked in Jacksonville, Florida, and went to school in Rock Hill, which serves as a suburb of Charlotte. “But when I interviewed, they said they wanted something new and different.”
So Kitchings increased programming, including art and community-education classes. She moved the city’s farmers market to Tuesday nights and added music, food, and drink. The city has a Friday night beach-music series, an annual barbecue cook-off, and a public art trail.
About 30,000 people go through the Cultural Center each year.
“The Cultural Center has become the identity of the Mauldin community,” Broad said. “This is where the community meets and connects.”