Hwy. 8 Master Plan offers guide for growth, branding of two towns

By Stan Welch
Approximately thirty citizens were on  hand Tuesday night as Tripp Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow & Associates, presented the findings of the Pelzer/ West Pelzer Master Plan for the shared stretch of Highway 8 that makes up both towns’ Main Street.
Muldrow presented several very telling statistics, including population within a five, ten, and fifteen minute drive of the Pelzer/West Pelzer location. Within the smallest radius, there are approximately 6600 people. That number leaps at the ten minute drive to 24,000. It explodes at the fifteen minute limit to 60,000.
Tied directly to those numbers are  several telling statistics related to a phenomenon known as leakage. Leakage refers to the amount of money spent by people in an area due to a lack of or absence of various opportunities to shop and dine within the drive distances. The discrepancy between the money spent within those areas and the amount spent outside those areas is the retail market gap.
For example, based on the five minute drive time zone, those 6600 people purchase approximately $98 million worth of goods and services within that   zone each year, out of a total expenditure of $103 million. That amounts to a retail market gap of five million dollars. But that gap soars to $185 million at the ten minute drive limit, and nearly doubles again to $367 million at the fifteen minute level.
He explained that those numbers, which include approximately $18 million   a year in money spent on dining, support the establishment of four to six additional restaurants in the two towns.
However, as those numbers relate to the constant quest for another major supermarket in the area, Muldrow said that the area currently would not support such a store. “Such stores require in the area of forty five million dollars in sales annually to sustain themselves. At the current population levels, a smaller, specialty type of food market would be more feasible.”
That same specialty or boutique approach would be more applicable in the area of furniture stores as well, said Muldrow. But he pointed out that a projected population growth rate of almost four percent in the next four years will begin to change those circumstances; a projection that was not factored into the numbers presented above. He also spoke optimistically about the expansion of tourism in the area, based on the historic and natural amenities available.
He then turned to the idea of branding, and establishing an identity for the two towns. He read a brief narrative of the towns’ histories, with an overt and persistent emphasis on the common interests of the two communities. “The two towns are neighbors and have  been  for many years. You work together, play together, go to school and church together. And you depend on each other. That needs to be recognized,” said Muldrow.
The catch phrase, or motto presented is “Two communities – Tightly woven”, a phrase that also harkens to the impact of the textile industry on the area’s history.
A logo evoking that same textile history was also presented, showing a small piece of cloth woven from tan and maroon threads. The logo would be used on signs and banners around the area, with the pattern of the weaving reversed from one town to the other.
The presentation then moved to several actual approaches to affecting the Main Street corridor, to slow and possibly reduce traffic, to make the thoroughfare more attractive, and to eventually create or attract more business opportunities.
Among the suggestions for the West Pelzer part of the stretch were suggestions for the La Palma location, which currently houses a Mexican restaurant of that name. Muldrow explained that the adjacent parking is more than adequate for the restaurant and suggested that additional trees and landscaping , as well as an outdoor dining area. He also added that in fill construction, in the form of additional business, might also be feasible in the future.
His suggestions for the Hindman Street area were more modest, with additional landscaping, some decorative lighting and possible in fill construction as the key elements.
In the Pelzer part of the projected improvements, the Lebby Street and Courtney Street intersection was the focus of much of the study. Several options were presented, all designed to narrow the street and create a legitimate left turn lane for accessing Courtney Street.
Another proposal for the parking lot between the town gym and the old hospital building would shift the existing parking spaces to the rear of the site, while creating a green space at the front. “Instead of people seeing just a parking lot, you could have a park or a picnic area. It could become a gathering place, a social destination,” said Muldrow.
He acknowledged that many of the proposals would require approval and cooperation from SCDOT. He also conceded that none of the options are intended as a solution to the various problems. “These suggestions are designed to mediate the situation. There is no magic bullet, no single solution.  Even out of the proposed options, the final result may very well take bits and pieces of the various options and weave them into a totally unique approach.”
The final report on the study will be presented to both Councils for review and possible approval. Muldrow reminded the audience, which included both Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor and West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders, as well as members of both town councils, that simply adopting such a plan is a key step in accessing additional grants to actually begin implementing the proposals.