Downtown to receive $825,000 in improvements
Prospects in downtown Darlington keep getting brighter.
Beyond millions in private investment made by Genesis Healthcare, a $3.2 million influx from the County Museum expansion, and the $17 million new courthouse, the City has been awarded a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for a downtown streetscape project.
"A downtown streetscape project is a natural extension of all that growth," says Lisa Bailey, director of economic development and planning and executive director for the Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association. "The improvements will also attract new businesses to vacant properties in the area and new customers to existing businesses,"
Working hand-in-hand with Darlington County, the City has coordinated the Downtown Streetscape project to make the most of all the investments being made downtown.
A map of the downtown district in the City of Darlington
Darlington County Council approved providing the $75,000 required match, and those funds will go towards the Carnegie Library parking lot and façade elements on the buildings that will be much more prominent as they face the new courthouse.
"We appreciate Darlington County Council for coming together with us on this project, leveraging the investment they are making to create a greater impact," says Mayor Curtis Boyd. "This is what public service is about, coming together to make big things happen for our small town."
The areas to be enhanced include the Public Square, the Public Walkway, the South Main Street parking lot, the Ward Street parking lot, the Carnegie Library parking lot, Hewitt Street, Orange Street, Russell Street, City Lane, and Cashua Street. The improvements to Hewitt Street Alley will create a pleasant and viable connection between the Public Square and the City Lane parking lot as well as a causeway to the County's new courthouse and new museum.
The Downtown Streetscape project will include
- creating a public gathering space on Hewitt Alley;
- repaving and reconfiguring three downtown parking lots;
- adding sidewalks;
- creating a trailhead at City Lane;
- installing amenities such as benches, landscaping, bicycle racks, trash receptacles, and trees; and
- increasing the number of security cameras and lighting for public safety purposes.
The added pavement on parking lots, seating, landscaping, sidewalks, and public gathering spaces highlights the commercial activity downtown and create spaces where people want to visit and do business and encourages growth in the town's center.
A current view of Hewitt Street / Hewitt Alley shows the blank canvas that will become a downtown gathering space.
"A grant of this magnitude could easily jumpstart the turning point for downtown Darlington, providing economic stability and growth, a sense of pride for citizens and a renewed hope for the future while also fostering much needed unity in our community," said Angie Stone Godbold, Darlington County Council District 1.
The first major restoration of downtown streetscape occurred in the 1990s when the City worked to get the parking lots paved and the utilities put underground. In 2005-2009, the City has a large scale public-private partnership project that saved 25 percent of the historic downtown from condemnation and created retail spaces and apartments. In 2015-2016, the City developed a beautification plan for downtown to update signage and landscaping, which will be referenced for design elements in all aspects of this project.
The parking lot of the vacant Carnegie Library building will be paved as part of the Downtown Streetscape Project, as it sits across the street from the location of the new courthouse.
Additionally, a $5,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation will go toward City beautification efforts, installing 10 more large ceramic pots along Cashua Street.