By Natalie M. Zeigler
Earlier this week, when downtown development organization Main Street Hartsville organized a ribbon cutting at Retrofit sip-n-seat, a specialized wine bar and upcycled furniture shop located on Mantissa Row when Mayor Mel Pennington joked that downtown ribbon cuttings are nearly happening on a weekly basis now. We have seen, looking back to January, 14 new businesses opened in the downtown district, many of them in the back half of this year. This count includes new restaurants, new specialty shops in freshly renovated historic storefronts, and of course the hotels which have become impossible to miss – the Hampton Inn & Suites and the Mantissa Executive Suites & Spa.
In other words, as we look back on 2015, it’s easy to see that downtown has been a place of impressive transformations, of new improvements like many of us wouldn’t have thought possible in the recent past. The City of Hartsville has continued to play an important role in this, knowing as we do that communities can only be as strong as their cores. We haven’t just supported the energetic efforts of Main Street Hartsville this past year, we’ve invested substantially in the physical structure of downtown. Thanks to Multi-County Business Park funding, new streetscaping is in place on South Fourth Street, Mantissa Row has become the home of a new downtown park, public parking lots on East College Avenue are either newly refurbished or soon will be, and the notoriously bumpy East College Avenue itself will soon be repaved.
Transformation has also been the theme of 2015 in the Butler District in south Hartsville. The South Hartsville Revitalization Plan, a document outlining the issues and opportunities for the area’s housing, transportation, business and community spirit, which was presented in January by the City’s Community Planning Assistance Team set the tone for much of what has happened since. The South Hartsville Neighborhood Association has been meeting at the Butler Heritage Campus, and has taken on housing and income surveys to better determine needs for future projects.
The Residential Demolition Assistance Program, meanwhile, has torn down more than 40 blighted houses, many in the Butler District, and the Community Development Block Grant which the City has now successfully received brings us the prospect of the long-awaited demolition of the abandoned Lincoln Village apartment complex. With all this blight gone, many have asked, what may replace it? In January, City Council will take their first look at Hartsville’s Infill Housing Ordinance, which would provide incentives of waived fees for new housing and mixed-use developments both in the Butler District and in the Oakdale neighborhood.
In the City of Hartsville, we believe real change can always happen at the local level, and that we will keep it happening here. There’s plenty of successes in transforming our home for the better in the last year, and more importantly, there’s plenty of promise for 2016.
Natalie Zeigler is the City Manager of Hartsville. For more information, call City Hall at 843-383-3015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.