City to move on downtown revitalization project

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The City of Greenville’s downtown revitalization project has found its cheerleader.

Francine Wasden, Executive Director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, will head up the city’s bold new initiative, one that is designed to lure new businesses to downtown Greenville with tax breaks.

“I’m going to try to do my best to live up to the challenge,” said Wasden.

Mayor Dexter McLendon initially unveiled his administration’s plans for revitalizing downtown in March. The plan remains virtually unchanged from then, (tax breaks for new businesses and building owners wishing to renovate existing structures), and McLendon reiterated the city will utilize the Ritz Theatre to draw more people downtown. New businesses deciding to locate in the downtown area, (defined as from the underpass to the Butler County Courthouse), will be granted a sales tax break of four cents on every dollar, three cents that would be returned to the business, with one cent going into a special fund set aside for the Ritz Theatre.

“The Ritz is our crown jewel,” said McLendon. “It’s what we’re going to use to draw people downtown.”

Building owners who perform renovations on existing structures downtown would also receive a sales tax break. McLendon said on any material or tools purchased within city limits to perform those renovations, the city would return four cents on every dollar spent.

The city needs building owners to take an active interest in downtown, said McLendon. He pointed to the Sellers Building, once home to Clements Motor Co., as evidence of how renovations could attract businesses.

“Carl Sellers spent a lot of money on that building,” said McLendon. “He made a big investment, but now that building is full of tenants and I know he’s happy about it.”

The new incentive package has already drawn its first business: Linda Spann, owner of Southern Treasures, will move her business to Greenville from Monroeville, said Wasden. She will locate in the building that formerly housed The Barn shoe store.

Southern Treasures is an antique and consignment store.

Spann expects to open by the second week of July.