The 1990s brought big changes for Simpsonville, with the addition of Heritage Park and new business along Fairview Road. Today the city is turning attention back to its roots, and focusing on what city administrator Eddie Case calls the “downtown business district.”
Bringing the Swamp Rabbit Trail
The twentieth century brick store fronts lining main street are divided by an active railroad, creating challenges for both foot traffic and a long-awaited Swamp Rabbit Trail extension through Simpsonville. Plans are finally forging forward for the trail, and the city is working on a plan that would construct the first 3/4 mile through downtown. Simpsonville has obtained a grant from SCDOT’s Transportation Alternative Program, to be matched by Greenville County Parks, Recreation, & Tourism. Part of the proposed location of the initial leg is in the railroad’s right-of-way, but negotiations are currently underway to ensure that the trail will be safe for public use.
“The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a priority to the City as it will help boost economic development for our area. We’re striving to come to an agreement that will be mutually beneficial for our community and the railroad,” said Simpsonville City Planner Jason Knudsen.
The addition of a trail is expected to have an impact similar to the one in Travelers Rest. Restaurants and local businesses are thriving along the trail in that city, and residents there do not hesitate to travel downtown on foot or by bicycle.
Keeping Simpsonville’s Downtown Beautiful
The southeastern side of Main Street has become a gathering spot for events and shoppers, with a concentration at the popular Ice Cream Station. Leadership Simpsonville successfully completed installation of several swings that mirror the store fronts, little libraries have popped up, and the Garden Club has donated planters that it maintains. Downtown has become a place to “sit and stay awhile,” and the foot traffic now runs from morning to past nightfall.
With the new energy comes waste, and Eddie Case noticed the city had no public trash cans downtown. The only two available belong to the Ice Cream Station.
At the May committee meeting, Case requested and received permission from council to pursue a $10,000 grant to purchase decorative trash cans. Esther Wagner of Palmetto Pride, the granting organization, believes the cans will help Simpsonville get ahead before it grows again, “We must change the social norm and prevent litter at its source–people who litter, either intentionally or through inattentiveness.”
All Aboard for New Restaurants
Businesses like the Ice Cream Station, Exchange Co. Coffee, Unterhausen, Shortfield’s, Papas and Beer, and Carolina Olive Oil were the first to begin meeting demands for a local food scene. Several new neighbors will be joining the party this year, and each will fill a unique culinary niche not currently available in the city.
What’s on Tap? will be located next to Life Span Therapy, right across from the Ice Cream Station. Their location on Woodruff Rd. is described as a craft beer and microbrew pub, growler fill station and retail store, and the Simpsonville location will have the same owners. The pub plans to open in mid to late summer.
Authentique, a French Créperie, is just around the corner from Howard’s Pharmacy. The building on West Curtis Street is being renovated, and plans to open in the next month or two.
Something else is brewing just down the tracks on Main Street. While the owners of this mystery business are not ready to make an announcement, beer aficionados should be on the lookout for big news this year.
Focus on the Future
Council and city officials are working on their budget for 2017-18, and the current proposal includes reestablishing the Planner I position. If that position is approved, Jason Knudsen will be able to focus his attention on Economic Development in the city–a topic that was important to voters in the last city election.
“This (position) will allow me to start revising the City’s long range plans, such as the comprehensive plan, downtown master plan, and transportation plans. It’s important to keep long range plans current to ensure the City grows in a healthy and smart manner,” Knudsen said of the Planner I position.
Simpsonville has come a long way from the small town it once was, and is no longer “just a suburb” of Greenville. The collaboration between the current administration, city employees, civic groups, business leaders, and the Chamber of Commerce is creating a new vibe in the city, one that attracts residents and businesses to spend their dollars in town.