Let me get real for a second.
On Friday, I put on a hardhat and gloves and climbed to the top of the 207-foot crane above the $20 million, 10-story AC Hotel by Marriott under construction in downtown Spartanburg.
Trust me, it doesn’t look that high from the ground, but feels twice that height when you’re up there.
My arms and legs are burning from the climb up a series of steel ladders when I reach the summit.
The wind is gusting at 40 mph and the platform of the crane is turning like the arm of a weathervane.
I grip a semi-wobbly handrail and panic momentarily sets in. My life literally flashes before me.
I see the building where I worked for 10 years — my first real job after college. I see the outdoor patio at the top of Denny’s tower, where I proposed to my ex-wife. I see our first apartment and the historic neighborhood where I bought my first home.
I see my son’s school. I see the lamppost I backed into, the sidewalk outside Java Jive. I see the fountain I “fell” into that one night after leaving Delaney’s Irish Pub.
But I take a deep breath. The blood returns to my knuckles. My subconscious stops screaming, “Get me off this thing!”
It’s a beautiful, clear day. I can see for miles in all directions. I remember why I came up here.
My eyes are drawn to several points in the city’s skyline: the smokestacks of the old Spartan and Beaumont Mills sites that are now home to the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and corporate offices for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, respectively.
The historic Montgomery Building, which has looked over downtown for nearly a century, sits waiting for its $25 million renovation that promises to bring new residential, retail and restaurant opportunities to the city. Behind it is the University of South Carolina Upstate’s business school and Chapman Cultural Center.
To the south, I see the old Schuyler building, now Church Street Lofts, which once resembled a relic of the Chernobyl disaster. It now sports 88 posh studio apartments, a rooftop fitness center and sun deck.
Main Street hums with pedestrians and automobiles. I think of all the stories I’ve written during the past few years about all of the new eateries and shops.
I see the future site of a new mixed-use development, a thriving brewery and the corporate headquarters for a handful of national and international companies ranging from software and financial services to development and restaurants.
According to the city of Spartanburg, downtown has netted more than $125 million in new investment and welcomed 70 new businesses since 2013. More than 19,000 people work within a 1.5-mile radius of Morgan Square.
The city just unveiled a public art project, “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light,” funded by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. And there’s more on the way.
The state’s first cooperatively owned grocery store, Hub City Co-op, opened earlier this year in downtown, and there’s $2.5 million in streetscaping projects underway.
Dirt for the runway extension at the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport is piled high and ready to be covered with asphalt.
I see the iconic towers of Wofford College’s Main Building and remember the NFL Carolina Panthers training camp held on campus this summer set new records for attendance and economic impact.
I look and below me I see a city full of people who love it and want to make it a better place.
I think about what the visitors of this new hotel will see when they look out at the same skyline next year.
There are four large properties near the hotel that hold so much potential. Will hotel patrons see a ball field, new apartments, shops, restaurants or an event center in a few years?
What achievements lay ahead for Spartanburg? Will I be around to see them all?
My mind starts to wander, but then it’s time to leave the perch. Like a sailor who has spotted land, I climb down energized and exhilarated.
I look up one last time as the wind blows a stack of conical paper cups from the top floors of the hotel. They land near, but their sound is muffled by the low growl of machinery. I realize it’s time to get back to work.