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Plans unveiled for Poinsett Highway corridor


City officials and business leaders announced plans to demolish the former Piedmont Shirt Factory on Poinsett Highway and redevelop it to become a potential hub for educational and skills training, as well as light manufacturing.  (Photo/Liz Segrist)City officials and business leaders announced plans to demolish the former Piedmont Shirt Factory on Poinsett Highway and redevelop it to become a potential hub for educational and skills training, as well as light manufacturing. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 23, 2013

Poinsett Highway corridor’s revitalization is on the horizon.

The public-private partnerships, vision and economic development that swept through Main Street and revived downtown Greenville from the 1970s to the 2000s is headed toward the Poinsett Highway corridor, a stretch between downtown Greenville and Cherrydale, heading toward Travelers Rest.

Joe Erwin, chairman of Greenville Revitalization Corp. and president of Erwin Penland, said officials are actively looking for a tenant for the former Piedmont Shirt Factory. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Joe Erwin, chairman of Greenville Revitalization Corp. and president of Erwin Penland, said officials are actively looking for a tenant for the former Piedmont Shirt Factory. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven said it’s important to improve the Poinsett Highway corridor for current residents. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Greenville County Council Chairman Butch Kirven said it’s important to improve the Poinsett Highway corridor for current residents. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
City officials and business leaders gathered Wednesday at the former bustling Piedmont Shirt Factory, at 625 Poinsett Highway in Greenville, to hear the Poinsett Corridor Revitalization Coalition’s plans that are expected to breathe life into the Poinsett Highway corridor.

Entities envision Poinsett Highway as an economic development hot spot with retail, improved housing, businesses, mixed-use developments, a public park and a job skills training center, among other components.

The former shirt factory is now an abandoned building with broken windows and a crumbling foundation. The first step of the area’s revitalization plans call for demolition of the building, set to begin Feb. 15 and finish sometime in June.

Entities plan for the site to become a potential hub for educational and skills training, as well as light manufacturing, said Joe Erwin, the chairman of the recently formed nonprofit, Greenville Revitalization Corp.

The entity has secured an undisclosed amount of funding for the project. It plans to secure more and land a lead tenant for the space.

The space could be similar to the Next Innovation Center, a technology incubator in downtown Greenville, or the site for Greenville Tech’s Tech Enterprise campus, which would incorporate workforce training, R&D and startup assistance to Upstate manufacturers.

“We want this to become some kind of incubator to create jobs for this area,” said Erwin, also the president of Erwin Penland, an advertising firm in Greenville. “We’re talking to all sorts of entities to find one that’s willing to be the trailblazer and come to this new facility in an area that’s been blighted, that’s mostly low-income, and be the catalyst for great change.”

The Poinsett Corridor Revitalization Coalition is made up of several entities, including Greenville County, Furman University, Greenville Rec, Greenville County Redevelopment Authority, the city of Greenville and Greenville Revitalization Corp.

Butch Kirven, the Greenville County Council chairman, said it’s important to improve the area for current residents and to ensure that future developments don’t push them out.

The “Poinsett District” is a fourth of a mile between Hammett Road and Gantt Street, outside of the city of Greenville and within Greenville County. Initial plans call for a landscaped gateway, more sidewalks, improved signage, green spaces and mixed-used developments, as well as potentially burying some of the power lines.

The corridor, a former textile hub, is now a highway for drivers to travel from Travelers Rest, passing Furman University and Cherrydale, into downtown Greenville. It has dilapidated buildings along much it. Graffiti and faded signs remind the community of the former businesses. Power lines litter the skyline and uneven sidewalks line the streets.

“The area we call Poinsett is actually the long neglected place where older elements of Greenville County and the city of Greenville collide in so many ways. Old residential, old industrial, old commercial and old infrastructure,” Kirven said. “Yet for many, this is the front door to Greenville and Greenville County. This is an important neighborhood for those that work here, live here and pass through here.”

Some successful businesses do well in the corridor, such as Duke’s Sandwich Shop, Poinsett Bar & Grill and the retail hub formed at Cherrydale, filled with restaurants, small businesses and big-box stores. Historic neighborhoods — such as Poe Mill, New Washington Heights, Sans Souci and Brutontown — surround the corridor.

The Poinsett Corridor Revitalization Coalition is working with area residents, businesses and property owners during the planning stages for the corridor.

Greenville County Rec also plans to turn the old Washington Center School, a 31-acre tract, into an area anchor park that could eventually connect to other city parks and the Swamp Rabbit Trail, said Gene Smith, the executive director of Greenville Rec.

“It’s exciting. Forty years ago, recreation wouldn’t have been included in the conversations about economic development and business recruitment,” Smith said. “Now it’s an important part of having a vibrant community.”

Subscribe to GSA Business to read the full story in the Feb. 11 issue.

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