Larry Webb, one of our own, is leading the way in the revitalization of historic downtown Piedmont, South Carolina
Many years ago, Piedmont was home to one of the world’s largest textile mills–Piedmont Manufacturing Company–and a thriving textile town. Four active textile mills were situated on the Anderson County and Greenville County sides of the Saluda River. In 1902, a major fire destroyed the entire downtown area of Piedmont including the mill stores and many other businesses. The Mercantile Building was constructed by the mill in 1905 to replace its stores and to provide space for other local businesses. The building has been mostly vacant for over 30 years.
For years, Larry Webb, a resident of Piedmont and principal at KDS, has looked at this old gem (the old mill store, photo at left) sitting on the hill and thought, “We need to do something with this big beautiful building?” After the decline in textile production and the fire in 1983, only the two smoke stacks remain of the manufacturing company; but, the old mill store remains. “When the mill burned and was torn down, everyone kind of fled the Piedmont downtown area, and it has been that way ever since.”
After months of passing the old mill store after she was placed on the market, he did extensive market research with local business and civic leaders solidifying his decision to purchase the property. “The mercantile building has historically been the center of retail and community activity for Piedmont’s riverfront village. It is still considered as the heart of the village and the Piedmont community needs it to be brought back to life. Market research confirmed that there is a demand in the area for new restaurants, retail outlets, medical offices and art venues . . . This building will be a perfect home for those uses!”
Larry and his investors plan to make a significant financial investment in the current restoration of the 25,000 SF building. Historic tax credits and abandoned building tax credits will help offset some of the cost of the restoration and make lease rates market affordable. The entire ground-floor retail spaces have been pre-leased and current tenant commitments have been executed with a Coffee Shop, a Taphouse, a Dentist, a Café & Caterer, and a five-artist Arts Gallery & Studios. The upper floor of the building will be converted to eight rental apartments.
“What a beautiful view of the waterfall and the old footbridge” says Larry as he looks out over the Saluda River and surroundings from large, floor-to-ceiling windows in the building. The dam and falls from the original mill sits just hundreds of feet from the building. The dam and falls is one of the oldest in the state and still generates power for the local area. The old footbridge, constructed circa 1888, originally connected both Piedmont Manufacturing Mercantile Mill Plants on either side of the river and was used by mill employees to walk back and forth over the dam to get to the mills. The entire waterfront area of Piedmont is in early stages of re-development and revitalization in a joint effort between Greenville County, Anderson County and the local Piedmont Historical Preservation Commission. The footbridge is currently undergoing structural engineering studies with hopes of stabilizing and revitalizing it as the central focal point of the riverfront redevelopment. The planned revitalization also includes the construction of kayak docks with access and launching sites above and below the dam and falls allowing kayakers to float down river to Piedmont from points north and continue on down river into Anderson and beyond. Along with the installation of the docks, plans call for public improvements such as sidewalks, gathering areas and greenspace along the river.
Larry’s restoration efforts, coupled with those of both counties and the Historic Preservation Commission, will go a long way in sparking the revitalization of Piedmont and the village of Piedmont returning to a destination location as it was in the past.
In the News…
Is Piedmont the next Travelers Rest? Bridge, Waterfall Could be the Key, Greenville News, May 9, 2018