From its very beginning back in 1890, the city of Mauldin has been missing something that surrounding cities such as Greenville, Simpsonville and Fountain Inn all have – a center point that is the hub of activity. What most would call “downtown.” Does this mean Mauldin does not have a downtown? The answer is, “yes and no.” Downtown Mauldin exists, but only on paper at this point.
The name of Mauldin dates back to 1820, when South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, W. L. Mauldin, assisted in getting the Greenville Laurens Railroad Company to come through the village. The train station was called “Mauldin” because of the lieutenant governor’s name, and the entire area eventually the name of Mauldin.
At the time, the town was little more than a crossroads of what it now Laurens and Butler roads. As the town grew, development spread in all four directions from the intersection of the two roads, but never to the point of having a center point of shops, restaurant, and other features that would be considered a downtown area. But over the next 10 years that will change, if city planners have their way.
According to Mauldin’s Economic Development Director, Van Broad, there is a “Downtown Master Plan” that is part of a much larger and more comprehensive 20-year plan forecasting population growth and assessing how the expected growth can best be accommodated. Both plans can be found on the city of Mauldin’s website: www.cityofmauldin.org.
The Downtown Master Plan calls for the redevelopment of a portion of the city’s traditional center, as a dedicated downtown district. “This is an innovative plan that includes shops, restaurants, and housing, centered around a large ‘Town Green’ facing North Main Street,” explained Broad. The proposed area covers approximately 12 acres, bounded by Jenkins Street and East Butler Road to its west and east, and North Main Street and the Carolina Piedmont Railroad to its south and north.
“Not having a downtown has been a challenge for us, but we have a great plan in place and the tools to make it happen,” Broad commented. “The plan has several phases, and the first has already begun with the transformation of the Mauldin Elementary School into the Mauldin Cultural Center. The key to realizing our vision of Downtown Mauldin will be creating an atmosphere among our residents and visitors alike that Mauldin has ‘must attend’ entertainment and civic events, such as a music series we started last year called ‘Beach Friday’ and held at the Cultural Center. This year, on May 5, we will start a ‘railroad series’ of bluegrass and country music, and in June we will start a farmers market that will run through the end of July,” continued Broad.
Broad believes Mauldin’s demographics and central location in the Upstate will help transform the city into a destination, and not a drive-through. “In my view, we’re the heartbeat of the Upstate,” Broad said. “Not only because of location, but because of the people here and the opportunity to do business here.” Broad sees two things as being necessary for Mauldin to realize its full potential as a great place to live, work, and visit – collaboration and property owner cooperation.
“Back in 2007, when I became the Economic Development Director for Fountain Inn, we went out and partnered with people, companies, and organizations, and found that we could get a lot more done when others believed in our efforts. This collaborative approach resulted in better program sponsorships, which eventually lead to a gift from Mr. Younts of $1.5 million to create the Younts Center for Performing Arts,” Broad added.
Broad is hoping that the excitement created by the current development efforts and the entertainment and civic events leads property owners to decide that they want to be a part of the redevelopment of Mauldin. “We are getting very positive responses from Mauldin business owners and land owners,” said Broad, adding, “I have had quite a few come to me and say, ‘I want to do something good for our city – how can I help?’ With that type of support, we will realize our vision of a downtown city center, sooner than later. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the efforts to transform Mauldin.”