Granite looks for its identity
Granite Quarry should be commended for doing its homework.
A delegation from the Rowan County town traveled a week ago to Travelers Rest, S.C., and came back with some good notions on what Granite Quarry must do to enhance its future.
The general take-away items were these:
• Have a plan. Granite Quarry will need a conceptual idea of what it hopes to accomplish in its central business district.
• Find an identity. What’s going to be Granite Quarry’s brand — the thing that ties everything together and makes it a destination spot — not a place on the way to somewhere else?
• Involve its residents and businesses. As other municipalities have learned through the years, it’s important to have public input at every level of planning.
The Granite Quarry delegation saw and heard things in Travelers Rest of which to be jealous. Travelers Rest has benefited greatly in recent years from the creation of Swamp Rabbit Trail, a multi-use greenway linked to the heart of Greenville 10 miles away.
Created from an abandoned rail line, the trail brings in visitors, provides recreation for residents and sparks economic development for the businesses wanting to be close to it.
Granite Quarry has a similar rail line. The only problem; trains still use it.
Travelers Rest also has invested heavily in aesthetic improvements in its central business district — things such as pocket parks, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and parking. In addition, the town has developed Trailblazer Park, which includes an outdoor amphitheater that is home for a summer concert series and movies in the park.
Travelers Rest relies on economic tools Granite Quarry doesn’t have, particularly accommodations and hospitality taxes providing revenues way beyond what Granite Quarry has at its disposal.
Granite Quarry could consider a municipal service district, but for it to work, a district would have to provide income through a special tax. The idea of extra property taxes is not always a palatable notion in a small town.
F&M Bank Chairman Paul Fisher sees some momentum building in Granite Quarry. The town has a new pharmacy. A medical office building is under construction, and a new Family Dollar is on the drawing board for the downtown.
If some significant retail development can happen where the old Eastside Kwik Stop was, it could begin to define the rest of the town, Fisher says.
But a mistake, Fisher is right to point out, could easily turn into a 50-year mistake. So it all goes back to doing more homework — and having a plan.