Grants help revive downtown

Published 3:41 pm Friday, June 12, 2015

By Beth Hyatt
The Greenville Advocate

In June of 2009, Mayor Dexter McLendon decided it was time to revitalize downtown Greenville.

A meeting was held at the Greenville Library and every downtown merchant was invited to attend.

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“He offered a grant to anyone who wanted to fix up their building and revive downtown. He came up with this plan with the help of an attorney. We had a public hearing about it, because there’s tax money involved, and there was no opposition to it,” said City Clerk Sue Arnold.

On Monday, the Greenville City Council passed a resolution to extend the city’s Downtown Revitalization Grant Program for five years.

McLendon has played a part in the life of the downtown area for years as a citizen, business owner and now political official.

“With the big stores and this kind of stuff, it’s difficult on small towns. Downtown is the heart and soul of your community; I like the idea of having our little Mayberry downtown,” McLendon said.

McLendon knows the historic significance of downtown and wants to continue to improve and restore it.

Over the years, businesses such as the High Horse Gallery have positively benefitted from this grant.

Mary McKinley, owner of the High Horse Gallery, has been apart of the grant program since 2013.

“It’s certainly a perk for anyone going into business downtown. You do get back something,” McKinley said.

For those who are property owners, the grant from the city can be used for up to 4 percent of the sale price of all construction supplies and material used for remodeling. This only applies to materials and supplies purchased in the city of Greenville. According to the 2015 Revitalization Grant resolution, a new retail business which locates in the grant area shall be permitted to apply to the council for a period of up to three years for a monetary grant from the city in an amount up to three percent of its sales made in the city by the business each month, less a monthly administrative fee to be determined by the city clerk.

McKinley believes the program is a positive effort for merchants not only because of the financial help it offers but also because it supports Greenville. Merchants involved in this grant program are offered incentives once they are in business with the city.

“One fourth of the taxes go to the Ritz Restoration Surcharge Account. This was established by the Ritz Advisory Committee 35 years ago when the Ritz was remodeled,” said Arnold.

The Ritz is one of the main focuses of downtown and because of that, there is a great importance put on keeping it up and running.

McKinley noted that not all local people shop locally; this takes away some of the financial support for the city and makes storeowners rely on Interstate traffic.

“It’s all about local shoppers. The majority of people in Greenville are not shopping locally. It’s real distressing that people are going out of town to buy things we have here in Greenville,” McKinley said.

In order to draw more positive attention to downtown, McLendon wants to incorporate more greenery around the existing businesses as well as add more parking to the area. It is also McLendon’s plan to honor the town’s veterans by incorporating them into the area.

“I think when we get through, this will be the first time in years that you’re really going to be able to tell a difference in downtown Greenville,” McLendon said.

McLendon expects the process to span the next two years.

The system set up for the grants has run smoothly so far and has been widely accepted by the merchants involved. As of now, there has been no opposition to the initiative and it has helped give these businesses the changes they have needed. A business is also on the way to the downtown area; a confidentiality agreement prevents McLendon from giving the names of the business.

Those who live in and have grown up in a small town see the charm and appeal of having a well-kept downtown area. It can be hard for those merely passing by on the Interstate to understand the significance of downtown because they rarely see it.

“They (downtown stores) don’t see the volume that Wal-Mart sees. But they’re still the heart of our downtown and there are so many that flock to Greenville and would like to continue doing so,” Arnold said.

It is the hope of McLendon and the merchants involved that revitalizing downtown will bring more attention to the businesses.

The reasoning behind this initiative was to revitalize and clean up the downtown area. Greenville natives are proud of the town and know what treasures lie there. If more can be done to bring life back to the downtown area, it is believed that more visitors will make their way through.

“Revitalization of downtown was the main goal. In order to do that, you have to know what it’s going to take,” Arnold said.

Every individual can play a part in keeping the downtown area up and coming, according to McKinley. All it takes is more participation from local shoppers and concerned citizens taking care of the area.