A barrier to economic development and community pride will be removed from a prominent thoroughfare in Spartanburg County.
Several local public and private entities have teamed up with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) and raised $500,000 to beautify the Interstate 85 Business Loop.
The project will involve the demolition of a 6-foot-tall chain-link fence on both sides of the corridor between its southern interchange with I-85 near Adidas’ distribution center about six miles to the Highway 9 exit at Boiling Springs.
Last week, a construction crew equipped with an excavator and a dump truck began dismantling the fence, which was placed when the road was upgraded to a four-lane freeway in 1959. Two decades of neglect have left the fence rusted, mangled in spots and tangled with vegetation and trash in others.
It will be replaced in the coming months with a new four-foot-tall chain-link fence dipped in black vinyl along with attractive shrubbery and signage.
“We want to create an attractive gateway to our community,” said John Montgomery, principal of Spartanburg-based Montgomery Development, who is assisting with the effort. “This is a positive project for beautification and economic development in Spartanburg County.”
Local entities involved in the project include Spartanburg County, Spartanburg Community College (SCC), Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, Montgomery Development, Spartanburg landscape architect Stewart Winslow and several private donors.
Montgomery said the current project was inspired by a cleanup effort conducted this past year by SCC near its campus along Business 85 and New Cut Road.
“Over a year ago, we received permission from the state to remove the fence in front of our campus and clean up part of the intersection at New Cut road and Business 85 in partnership with Spartanburg Water System,” said Henry Giles, president of SCC. “I think people have been very pleased with the way it looks and the positive image it has made for the college.”
Giles said the joint public-private partnership is funded by $200,000 in private donations. DOT has committed $300,000 to the project during the next two fiscal years. The funds will be managed by SCC’s foundation.
The foundation will also manage the contract for the work and the college has volunteered its maintenance department to help with the project, Giles said. SCC plans to place a new sign at New Cut Road and Business 85.
“I’m really excited for the college and foundation to be a part of what I think is a great beautification project for Spartanburg.”
Montgomery said a second phase of the project is planned, which will clean up the remaining stretch of Business 85 from Highway 9 to its northern interchange at Highway 221 and I-85. He said he will begin soliciting donations for those improvements soon.
“I think it will give it a nice, consistent look,” said Pete Weisman, owner and architect of Corporate Center, a 193-acre business park near the intersection of Business 85 and Bryant Road. “It will be a big upgrade.”
Business 85 was a magnet for commercial and industrial activity before it was bypassed in 1995 by a new section of I-85 a little further north.
The number of companies located there has dwindled a little throughout the years, but several businesses and institutions, including Milliken & Co., Adidas, Highland Baking Co., SCC, and the University of South Carolina Upstate are still on the corridor.
It also has access to other important transportation channels, including Interstate 585, Highway 9, Bryant Road, New Cut Road, Asheville Highway and Fairforest Road.
The average daily traffic count on Business 85 ranges from about 24,000 to 35,000 vehicles per day, Montgomery said.
The project will complement other recent gateway beautification projects, such as the new welcome sign bearing the county seal at I-85 and Highway 14, landscaping at I-85 and I-585, a new bridge at California Avenue and I-585, a cleanup at the Roger Milliken Interchange at I-585 and Business 85, and landscaping at Highway 29 and I-26.
Montgomery said the projects draw inspiration from the late textile magnate Roger Milliken’s decision to plant rows of oak trees along the Business 85 near Milliken & Co.’s corporate office.
He also credited the Spot of Pride program, which was a vision of the late Hans Balmer to beautify Spartanburg through median and roadside enhancements.
“It makes a big difference,” said Carter Smith, executive vice president of the Economic Futures Group. “It’s important to make a good first impression and this project with greatly enhance the appearance of that corridor… We just launched our One Spartanburg vision plan and these projects go a long way in helping us firmly establish our quality of place initiatives that are part of the plan.”