By Jeremy Handel, Staff Writer
Despite the economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodruff seems to have skirted the worst of it with multiple new businesses and other development projects either breaking ground or opening this year.
The City of Woodruff continues to add to that progress, and the revitalization of downtown, as they move forward with the construction and projected opening of Block 224, an open-air public space for residents to enjoy a relaxing setting, musical performances, and other events.
“I think this will be a great asset for the city,” said Mayor Kenneth Gist, adding that he thinks the project will help attract more people downtown to help the local businesses. “That’s why we did this was to help the businesses.”
Block 224 came about following the city’s purchase of an abandoned building at 224 S. Main Street in August 2018, after the owner proposed the sale when the cost of bringing the building up to code became cost prohibitive. The City purchased the property for $23,000 with the intent to create a new public space to bring more people downtown.
“We saw the vision of what this [building] could become,” said City Manager Lee Bailey. “This will be an attraction that will bring people downtown and to the businesses. This will be a unique space that is not offered in any other Upstate city.”
Bailey said this is another extension of the City’s effort to continue to improve downtown and attract more people to the area. The project follows on the heels of the McKinney Park Streetscape Connector and will provide another aesthetic improvement to the streetscape on south Main Street.
Block 224 will provide visitors to downtown a space to enjoy and relax. The space will feature seating areas, a gas firepit, arched entry façade, and a stage. The City plans to feature acoustic musicians during the week and make the space available for rent for small events and gatherings in the future. Bailey indicated the City will evaluate the foot traffic and usage of the space and evaluate pricing and scheduling of events sometime in 2021.
Hunter Brown and Leslie Cash, co-chairs of OneSpartanburg’s Woodruff Area Council, feel the project will be a benefit to downtown businesses
“We are excited about the growth downtown and think this will be an excellent addition. It has the potential to allow for more events and greater foot traffic which has proven to be a major benefit for so many towns,” the pair told The Woodruff Times via email.
The project started construction in late September and is projected to open to the public on December 1. Total cost for construction is $350,000, which will be offset slightly through $25,000 Hometown Economic Development Grant the City was awarded by the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Woodruff was one of only 12 cities across the state to receive the grant, which is intended for projects that will make a positive impact on the municipality’s quality of life.
Bailey said the City is excited about the project and what it will do for the businesses downtown. Adding that they have received positive feedback from business owners.
“Our vision is to have people flow from business to business and enjoy Block 224 and all the businesses along Main Street,” he said. “The positive affect it will have on our community and businesses will far exceed everyone’s expectations.”