The longstanding goal to create a true downtown area for the city of Mauldin now looks closer than ever to becoming a reality.
City officials and the developers behind the project have revealed plans for Mauldin City Center, a 6.5-acre adaptive reuse project that will feature a food hall, residential townhomes and a 25,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor entertainment complex.
The food hall and entertainment complex are projected to open late spring to early summer of 2022. The overall project is set to take roughly 24 months once construction begins, a date for which has yet to be locked down.
The site of the project, located on city-owned property along the train tracks on Murray Drive between Jenkins Street and East Butler Road, has been a well-worn topic of discussion among local stakeholders. Plans to put the property to use have been underway in some form or another since the city voted to begin working to create a formal downtown area in 2009.
But after more than a decade of starts and stops on the project, city officials had expressed an understandable hesitance in recent months to make any bold proclamations about whether or not the project was finally going to happen.
Now, they’re expressing an unprecedented certainty.
“I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been that this is going to finally happen,” said Mauldin Mayor Terry Merritt. “You know, the country-boy side of me is always cautious about things. I’m one of those guys who only gets excited about a project when I actually see the shovels turning over the dirt. But I’m very excited right now. This is really, really real.”
The project, which is spearheaded by Greenville-based real estate and development consulting firm The Parker Group, is being developed with a holistic approach in mind, according to the firm’s founder and broker-in-charge, Drew Parker.
The food hall will serve as home to several restaurant concepts as well as a beer garden, an outdoor stage, covered outdoor seating, a 5,000-square-foot patio, fire pits and a large swath of green space.
Patrons will have access to a 100-space parking lot directly adjacent to the food hall.
The attached entertainment complex will feature yard games, indoor pickle ball, bocce ball and “plenty of other fun activities,” according to Parker.
“We like to embrace a challenge,” he said. “And the truth is, finding projects that can help build a community are a challenge. If it was easy, anybody would do it. So we like to get fully integrated and make a bold statement, in a good way, that brings everybody together and makes it a place people can be proud of for decades to come.”
In the residential aspect of the project, the townhomes will come in 10 complexes of four to six townhomes each, all surrounded by green space. Each townhome comes with its own two-car garage and two- or three-bedroom plans. Pricing will start in the mid $200,000 range.
The stated goal of the overall project is to create a “community hub,” Parker said, that will combine both modern and traditional design concepts — what he called “a classic downtown reimagined.”
“We’re really focused on creating a look that Mauldin wants to see and that would fit best here,” Parker said. “That for us was an urban look. It’s going to be a lot of brick, street lanterns, sidewalks. We want that downtown urban feel, but not downtown Atlanta or anything like that. Think a classic, old-school American downtown but reimagined for modern times.”
The path to bring the project to fruition has been a team effort between city leaders and The Parker Group, according to Van Broad, Mauldin’s community development director.
“I cannot overstate the hard work of our council, our mayor, and all the people who’ve had the courage to really put themselves out there to get this project across the finish line,” Broad said. “They all could’ve sat on the sidelines, but they showed leadership, and they showed how much they really want to see something good for the citizens of this town.”
City Councilman Taft Matney, who grew up in Mauldin, said the project signifies the beginning of a downtown that will continue to grow.
“When you see the buy-in from the community, it’s extremely exciting. I also think what’s incredibly reassuring is the that fact that we’re working with someone who is a local guy,” Matney said, referring to Parker, a Greenville County resident and Furman graduate. “It shows we’re keeping this home-grown.”
As for those who don’t wish to see Mauldin change, Merritt said he himself had his own doubts about the project early on.
“But once I saw the details and the planning, I became a big proponent, because I understood that if we want the city to be what we grew up loving and have that continue for the next generation — let’s say for my grandkids — then it has to be a different city,” Merritt said. “We can’t survive forever as a crossroads community alone.”
Merritt said he sees no reason further development should change the “community feel” that serves as Mauldin’s identity.
“We wave at our neighbors, stop and talk to each other, go to church and buy our groceries together,” he said. “We’re going to keep that for the future generations, but we’re just adding a more walkable environment, a community where all of us can come together for years to come.”
As for Parker, he said he’s up to the challenge to be a first step in bringing that new community to life.
“It’s been an honor,” Parker said. “I should say there’s been some pressure associated with this, but I’m honestly not nearly as caught up in that as I am in the excitement of working with Mauldin to bring this to reality.”
Is this going to cost the taxpayers?
In short, no, it will not.
The Parker Group is already under contract for the property itself, but it’s not as simple as just buying land.
Mauldin City Administrator Brandon Madden said the challenge was how to get the project off the ground while still being good fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars.
That problem was addressed by taking advantage of a pre-existing multi-county industrial park agreement.
While the name might call to mind large buildings and warehouses, this type of “industrial park” is actually a financial designation only. It’s an agreement between two counties — in this case, Anderson County and Greenville County, which formed the agreement in 2017 — that allows both counties to get better incentives for commercial development.
One could spend pages and pages diving into the complexities of these legal agreements, but for this project, all you need to know is that it allowed Mauldin to change the developer’s property taxes into fees, according to Greenville County Attorney Brad Love.
“It doesn’t change the rate of the taxes,” Love said. “It just changes the taxes to fees.”
With this legal switch in how the money is designated, Mauldin is then free to reallocate that money to go toward infrastructure improvements in the area.
In other words, developers like The Parker Group can be sure that if they, for example, put in new sewer lines, add sidewalks or other infrastructure improvements, they will be paid back by those fees from the city. And the city wins by seeing increased commercial development that will then bring in more money to the city’s general fund.
While it’s true that developers ultimately get reimbursed by taxpayers for their infrastructure investments, Mauldin Mayor Terry Merritt stressed that these infrastructure investments never would have happened in the first place without these incentives — and neither would the increased money flowing into the city as a result of development.
“It’s a win for everybody,” Merritt said.
More in the works
City Center is not the only property The Parker Group hopes to reimagine.
Parker said the firm is already under contract for the former Rite Aid spot on the corner of Laurens and Butler roads, which will be redeveloped this year and transformed into restaurant and office space.
“The concepts and the plans are running simultaneously with the City Center project, so we should have more to reveal on that soon,” Parker said.
Looking into the future, Parker didn’t rule out redeveloping other parcels in the close vicinity as well. He said his goal for any further development would be to “stick to the city’s master plan as closely as possible.”
But he did say Laurens Road was rife for possibility, even if it wasn’t The Parker Group leading the charge.
“We want to try to change the streetscape to make it feel more like you’re in a downtown area,” he said. “That’s a big part of our focus. We probably can’t pull that off alone, though.”