Transportation corridor along Laurens Road could create sizable economic impact
It could be a personal rapid transit (PRT), driverless taxi, golf cart or bus that zips along the abandoned rail bed that parallels Laurens Road in Greenville, but whatever form it takes, a transportation corridor could create substantial changes in development, the economy and connectivity.
In three years, the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail used by walkers and cyclists created an estimated $6.7 million economic impact just from non-local users, according to a 2014 report.
Verdae president and CEO Rick Sumerel said the Verdae master plan has always assumed that the rail corridor would become a multi-modal transportation thoroughfare connecting CU-ICAR, the Millennium Campus and downtown Greenville, passing right past the development.
Like the renaissance in Travelers Rest after the Swamp Rabbit Trail connected the small town with downtown Greenville, Sumerel predicts a similar trend for the new corridor.
“I think the economic development is going to be exponential to what we’re seeing in the northern part of the county,” he said. “We are beyond the ‘could it happen’ stage and we are into the first phases of what’s going to happen.”
Sumerel pointed to Velo at Verdae, a new housing complex in the works that will offer 262 apartments on 25 acres. The project is deliberately sited to face the trail in progress, he said. “The apartment developers have already designed their complex with multiple access points [to the Swamp Rabbit] so that their residents can take advantage of it. We see that happening on another parcel down Laurens Road. This first complex bodes well for future development.”
DOING BUSINESS ON THE TRAIL
Greenville County Councilman Fred Payne is an advocate of on-demand PRT (sometimes called podcars) along the corridor, along with Green Villages, multiple mixed-use developments that allow residents to live, work, shop and play. He predicts the economic impact of this type of development could be as much as $1 billion and divert thousands of cars from congested roadways.
Sumerel said he envisions the corridor populated with users similar to those on the northern portion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, initially used by cyclists and pedestrians. “We think that corridor should not be limited to walking, bicycling and maybe golf carts. We think the potential there is significant,” he added, saying motorized transportation will come, too.
Greenville County Councilman H.G. “Butch” Kirven said that the first step is to get the trail established along the corridor. As far as economic impact,“it would certainly improve opportunities in the Pleasantburg area—whatever that entails,” he said.
When the city of Greenville and Greenville County announced they would contribute to the corridor development, “that increased the number of calls we’ve had from folks asking us about the availability of sites to do businesses on the trail,” Kirven said.
“I think as long as this momentum continues and the city and county continue to work together to get the initial phase done, that’s going to be the classic momentum-builder for the first project and a whole series to connect downtown to Verdae to ICAR and even further.”