It’s probably been 8 years since we first stopped by the city offices of Travelers Rest. At that time we were driving through North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee looking for a new place to call home. Remember I grew up in a town of 492 with no mail boxes at your house, no street signs and no stop signs, Nicollet, MN. Really. So even though I lived most of my life in the Twin Cities there was always a spot deep inside of me that liked the feel of a small town but also wanted all the things a larger town had. I wanted my cake and wanted to eat it too. Travelers Rest has all the necessities like grocery stores, doctors, dentists, hardware stores, Wal-Mart, restaurants and small shops 10 minutes away and the luxuries like more restaurants, more shopping, concerts, theater, festivals, art museums and Furman University 20-30 minutes away in Greenville.
We had investigated dozens of small towns and most left something to be desired. Travelers Rest wasn’t much to look at 8 years ago but we saw their plan of what they wanted it to be and they had the money set aside to do it. I remember saying to Bob “This is a town with a plan. It want’s to be more. I think in another 10 years this is going to be a very impressive place.” It’s a town of about 4500. To say that in 8 years the town has changed would be an big understatement. They had a 10 year plan and they have accomplished most of the things on their plan. We have a beautifully redone main street and new restaurants and other businesses coming in, especially the last year. The business association became a Chamber of Commerce a few months ago and is really an active group.
One of the most fun new businesses is the Barker Bar Pub which is a little pub where you can bring your dog inside. They also have a nice shaded play area for the dogs in the back. Remember we are near the Swamp Rabbit Trail so lots of dog walkers. It’s not fancy but its fun. I heard it referred to as the private club for dogs because you have to register your dog for admittance. What a cool idea. I know my dog loving readers and friends will be jealous.
The city has hired back the group that did the first 10 year plan in 2003 and in the last few months I had the opportunity to participate in a little of the planning for the next phase of development. Last week I saw the presentation on what their findings were and to say I am excited about the possibilities is a major understatement. I haven’t read the whole report yet but I will soon. It’s 52 pages. As you might expect some are relatively easy and low cost items and others are much bigger opportunities but I think most of them can be accomplished, albeit with a lot of hard work by the City and the Chamber of Commerce and other partners they bring in from surrounding communities but they are committed and when I see what has been done the last 10 years I am really encouraged. Believe it or not the City actually has money to do things from a hospitality tax and an expected large Federal grant. Keep your fingers crossed for the later one.
Businesses are on the way to making that critical mass of activity that the town needs. Getting abandon and neglected buildings looking better is one problem that needs to be addressed and it’s not an easy one. The Swamp Rabbit Trail was a huge help to get the momentum going. It brings 1000 people a day on foot or bike to the town. We have a reputation as an outdoor, casual place.
Arnett Muldrow and Associates is the company who did the plan both times and it sounds like they have deep experience in helping towns remake themselves. I am quite impressed. My view of consultants is not usually a positive one but this one really brings good ideas to the table. Arnett Muldrow is an Urban Planning firm based in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in Community Branding, Retail Market Analysis, Historic Preservation and Downtown Masterplanning.
Link to the plan here :http://www.greatertrchamber.com/
This is enough for one post. I promise you will hear much more about my little town.