Main Street Laurens recently announced plans to develop a downtown master plan, led by Alta Planning + Design of Greenville. The planning process took place in Laurens Tuesday through Thursday of this week.
“This planning process is an important step in helping move Main Street Laurens and the City of Laurens into the future,” said Jonathan Irick, Executive Director of Main Street Laurens. “This plan will ensure that future projects and funding are utilized to the fullest in order to make Downtown Laurens a place people and businesses want to come to.”
Many communities around Laurens have master plans in place and have been working off of them to guide their development. The economic enhancement team for Main Street Laurens decided now was the time to undertake this planning process.
Members of the community and those interested in the future of Downtown Laurens took part in the development process of the master plan. Alta met with property owners, representatives, stakeholders, and interested citizens to answer questions and further refine ideas.
During the three-day work session, Main Street Laurens and Tee Coker, AICP-Planning Associate with Alta Planning, also met with elected officials, city administration, CPW, LCDC, SCDOT, city staff and downtown merchants.
“We want downtown Laurens to be active, vibrant, economically thriving and a safe place,” said Coker. “We want to think big, bold and visionary.”
During their talks with local residents, Alta heard that people want to develop a vision for an active, attractive and economically vibrant downtown, reinforce downtown gateways and create a sense of arrival into the district, strengthen and connect the historic square to the surrounding area, prioritize roadway, intersection and pedestrian safety and to develop a strategy for plan implementation.
The downtown master plan broke the downtown area into four sections: Rich Hill neighborhood, Historic Square, Sullivan Park and Railroad District.
The Rich Hill neighborhood area was mapped from Caroline Street to Hampton Street to North Harper to Laurens Street. Proposed amenities to this area included single-family residential housing, improvements to the city parking lot at Laurens and Caroline Street, improved parking near Verdin’s Too, a designated area for food trucks and a gateway monument at North Harper and Hampton.
One of the main emphasis areas in this section was the calming of traffic on North Harper. The master plan calls for moving North Harper from four lanes to two lanes with a center turn lane starting at Hampton. The reconfiguration also includes bike lanes on both sides of the road and a traffic light at North Harper and Laurens.
“We want people to slow down and take it in,” said Coker.
The historic square was mapped from Caroline Street to the back of United Community Bank to Laurens Street to the end of the city parking lot on North Harper Street.
Proposed amenities included improved pedestrian intersections, a permanent home for the farmer’s market, a possible boutique hotel, closing Palmetto Street and turning it into a festival street, tying in the new park on the corner of North Harper and West Main Street with the old Back Street area of downtown.
One discussion revolved around the use of the historic courthouse. The courthouse is the hub of the square but it is only utilized a few times a year for county council and houses four offices downstairs. The idea was brought up to change the usage of the courthouse to maybe include a university center similar to McAlister Square in Greenville. Coordinate with Piedmont Tech, USC-Union and Presbyterian College to hold classes in the courthouse to bring more traffic and a younger demographic to the square.
The Sullivan Park area was mapped as the area behind United Community Bank to the railroad. The proposed idea was to make this a signature park for downtown. A tiered park that would include a water feature and performance space with natural seating.
“This would be a much larger space than the existing amphitheater,” said Coker.
Other items presented in the meeting included enhanced wayfinding signage, outdoor artwork and additional murals.
Alta ended the meeting with the next steps and capital improvement prioritization. The next steps include: encourage citizen and business participation in downtown events, coordinate with PTC-PC-USCU to create a cohesive downtown University Center, work with legislative delegation on Harper Street and Palmetto streetscape improvements, explore USDA grant for farmer’s market and explore downtown hotel/downtown residential feasibility.
Capital improvement priorities include: wayfinding signage, public art installation in existing spaces, Sullivan Park and downtown greenspace development, permanent home for farmer’s market, Harper Street streetscape and Palmetto Street festival streetscape.