By Stan Welch
A second meeting of the various players associated with proposed efforts to restore downtown Piedmont to its previous glory, while also preparing the area for future development as well, took place last Thursday in the community building.
Greenville County Councilman Lynn Ballard and his Anderson County counterpart Ken Waters were present, as well as representatives of both county recreation departments, the various developers and county administrators.
Reengineering the historic footbridge that sits atop the dam which continues to utilize the Saluda River to generate electricity was at the top of the agenda. The group learned that an informal estimate for the reengineering project had been obtained, and that the estimate was for seventy thousand dollars; a figure which made several of the participants swallow nervously. Anderson County administrator Rusty Burns affirmed that Anderson County is prepared to pay half of the costs of the study.
It was generally agreed that the seventy thousand dollar figure was an estimate and not a competitive bid, which Anderson County recreation director Matt Schell suggested be sought through the formal process, which includes a request for qualifications. It was agreed that Schell would issue that request as soon as possible.
Schell also made an impassioned plea for the establishment of a permanent kayaking facility in the Piedmont area along with the restoration and development of the downtown. Schell is an active promoter of the Saluda River Blueway. A forty eight mile stretch of the river is being developed as a link in a statewide watercourse that will run from the headwaters to the coast.
Schell, and Greenvile County Recreational Director Ty Houck covered the value of an existing site outside the downtown Piedmont corridor; a site that Schell considers inadequate because of its location. “Every year we move the kayak dock down here for the River Rally and everyone in the kayaking community goes crazy over the location. Then we move it back and all that enthusiasm drops off again. Kayaking is a key to Piedmont’s future and I just think we can do both things at once.”
Burns supported Schell’s quest to get the ball rolling, and eventually Houck agreed that Greenville County will lease the site on their side of the river for a dollar a year, providing the predictability that Anderson county needs to make their facility permanent. Houck also stated that he would have a site plan drawn up for the Piedmont site for the kayak dock.
Developer Larry Webb, whose announced plans to restore the mercantile building provided the initial momentum, explained that he is already receiving inquiries as to the availability of retail space. He added that the building will be fully restored to its original appearance except for the presence of an elevator shaft to comply with the American Disabilities Act.
A follow up meeting will be held on June 28 at the community building.
By Stan Welch