Ask most anyone in Williamston what the number one thing is that they would like to see in the town, and the answer is almost always “a grocery store.” The town has been without a grocery store since the closing of Winn Dixie when the chain pulled out of the Carolinas in 2005.
Over the last three years, the town has been involved in a plan to increase “roof tops”, the single most important indicator of new growth.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham said that the town is poised for future growth, which he thinks will soon include a grocery store.
The town has had 56 new homes built, 58 empty or dilapidated properties brought back onto the tax rolls and residential growth of over 100 new properties in Williamston.
Another proposed development that could include as many as 67 homes, recently received first reading approval by town council. Scout Development is planning to construct a sixty unit housing project on a tract of land owned by the town which is located between First Street and Mahaffey Street. The property is comprised of 32.74 acres and was purchased from Milliken in 2012. Under the unique agreement, the town will provide property in exchange for the residential development by Scout Development, LLC.
Another residential development near the center of town is being recommended in a Residential Action Plan undertaken by R.E.D. City Planning. Information for the plan was gathered over most of this year and included looking at residential development, retail development, industrial development, tourism and the overall quality of life in Williamston.
The plan states that new, reasonably priced single-family home options in the heart of downtown Williamston, along with the Mineral Spring Park and the New Expanded Walking Trail, are amazing amenities. It states: “We believe this will draw a diverse crowd of potential buyers and new residents to Williamston, all of whom will be an immediate boost to the local economy and especially Main Street Williamston.”
According to Economic Development professionals, including Anderson County’s Burris Nelson, new growth is what attracts chain and franchise stores, especially grocery stores.
Durham said after talking with Nelson several years ago, he began an effort that included three steps: Increase the number of “roof tops” in Williamston; recruit new businesses, especially restaurants, to Williamston and recruit a downtown full-service grocery store to Williamston.
“We are accomplishing the plan I set for us 3 years ago after talking with Anderson County Office of Economic Development, and the results speak for themselves,” Durham said.
“Three years ago I set the course for us to get a grocery store by building our residential numbers with new homes and refurbishing dilapidated properties, to make Williamston a growth center in our larger market area. With 56 new homes built in the last few years and 58 empty or dilapidated properties back on the tax rolls, we have seen residential growth of over 100 new properties in Williamston and even more just outside of our town. We have seen new successful businesses and restaurants invest in Williamston. And now, with 67 more homes proposed for construction in Williamston, we will get even more business investment!”
Durham said with Williamston now recognized as the growth center of the area and with steps one and two complete, Williamston is now positioned to recruit a grocery store. “The hard work is now done,” he said. “The stage is now set for a new grocery store to locate in Williamston.”
Durham said, “I fully believe that we will have a grocery store committed to Williamston in the next 6 months because everything needed to attract a grocery store is now in place.”
Another long term project, which could be a boost to growth in the town, is also about to happen.
SCDOT is currently working to get the plans finalized and submitted for the Cherokee Road over US 29 Bridge Replacement Project. If all goes as planned, SCDOT will receive bids in mid-April 2021, analyze the bids and prepare the contract. Work could begin as early as June 2021. The project includes a bridge over the Hwy. 29, a new roundabout, utility relocations, and keeping local roads open during construction.
SCDOT officials say that this type of project typically takes two to two and a half years to complete.
The town also recently purchased property on West Main Street to allow for Cherokee Road to be extended beside the Dollar General to form an intersection with West Main and Prince St. The Cherokee Road improvements will provide a direct access from Hwy. 29 to the downtown Williamston.